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On your buzzers as Michael proves he's more than up to the University Challenge


Bright spark: Michael Taylor with his teammates and presenter Jeremy Paxman on University Challenge

Bright spark: Michael Taylor with his teammates and presenter Jeremy Paxman on University Challenge

Bright spark: Michael Taylor with his teammates and presenter Jeremy Paxman on University Challenge

Shall we call him the brain of Ballymena?

A Northern Irish student has been setting the University Challenge quiz alight with his dazzling display of knowledge.

Co Antrim's Michael Taylor has been the star of Cambridge University's Gonville and Caius college team, leading them to triumph on the quiz competition this week.

The modest PHD History student found the experience "tremendously exciting" - but "eerie".

"It was a privilege to represent my college and my hometown," he said.

"I loved the process - the team spirit, the preparation, and learning lots of stuff - but I'm not sure I actually liked being on TV.

"It is an eerie feeling to watch what I had experienced from a completely different perspective."

When the gong sounded at the end of the show, the Cambridge team had smashed Manchester 200 to 135 and won a place in the competition's quarter final.

The former Ballymena Academy pupil had blitzed opponents at Manchester University with his impressive array of knowledge of history, literature and music.

But he attributed his success at the buzzer to luck rather than brains.

"A lot of it has been luck and some of it has just been good guess work," he said.

One question he scored for was on the French writer Emile Zola.

"The day before, I thought it would be a good idea to learn something about Emile Zola. It was just incredible good fortune that it came up; I thought 'This is ridiculous!'. There are just some strange moments of serendipity."

But he did not get all the luck.

Michael despaired when Manchester was granted a bonus round on Irish cricket - they floundered where his combined loves would have seen him ace them.

"They didn't show my reaction - I just put my head to the desk."

Michael is just months away from completing his PHD and looking forward to returning home to Ballymena for Christmas.

Some of the tricky questions Michael answered correctly:

1 "Taking the view that thought does not become a young woman, which character argues that girls should be sent at the age of nine to boarding school to learn ingenuity and artifice, she is the guardian of Lydia Languish who she orders to forget her suitor, in her words, 'to illiterate him quite from your memory' in Sheridan's play The Rivals?"

2 "After a Latin American country, what adjective links seedpods inhabited by the lava of a small moth an impasse or confrontation and an example of metachronal rhythm among spectators at a sports stadium?"

3 "Legal positivism is an approach to law which denies any necessary connection between law and morality and is especially associated with which utilitarian philosopher born in London in 1748?"

4 "Between 1871 and 1893, which author produced a series of novels that were collectively entitled Les Ruegon-Macquart?"

5"Written to mark the coronation in 1953, Benjamin Britten's opera Gloriana concerns the relationship between Elizabeth the 1st and which of her courtiers?"


1. Mrs Malaprop, 2. Mexican, 3. Jeremy Bentham, 4. Emile Zola, 5. The Earl of Essex

Belfast Telegraph

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