Former Wallace pupil wins place in semis
by STACEY HEANEY
man Stuart McDonald proved to be a real Mastermind when he
reached the semi finals of the iconic show last Friday night.
Stuart, a GP in Portadown who is a former pupil of Wallace
High School, sailed through with 14 points from his specialist
subject of Genghis Khan and finishing with a fantastic score of
26 after the general knowledge round.
What made the show even more remarkable was
that another former Wallace pupil, Karl Byrne, was in the same
show. Dromara man Karl, a PhD student at Queen's, came second.
Stuart, who lives in Hillsborough, decided to audition for the
show after hearing on the radio that auditions were taking place
in Belfast the next day.
"I was driving home when I heard about the
auditions and it was a spur of the moment thing to go. I was
pretty much the last person to be seen that day."
Stuart continued: "I was sure I hadn't done
well enough. I enjoyed the audition and was glad that at least
I'd had a go but a producer phoned me a week later and said I
had got through to the show. It was an absolute shock, I think I
laughed for ten minutes."
Stuart's toughest task lay ahead as he
studied for his specialist subject.
"I went to the audition with no specialist subject. They
asked me 20 general knowledge questions and about myself and
then what my specialist subject would be. They got a bit grumpy
when I said I didn't have one so I had to make three up on the
spot. I went through a few topics which were already taken and
it happened that I had recently read a novel about Genghis Khan
so I chose that. I had no knowledge at all on Genghis Khan so I
had to start from scratch.
"It was a few days later that the realisation
hit me that I didn't know anything. I assumed I would crumble
and it was my aim not to come last."
Stuart said he "totally surprised" himself at
how well he did as he booked a place in the semis.
"I was first up so I had very little chance
to get nervous," he said. "When the two minutes were up and I
had 14 points I knew that was a reasonable score and that I had
Describing his experience in the famous
Mastermind chair, Stuart said: "It's not particularly
comfortable. There is just a light on you and John Humphreys and
you can't see anything else. There is a highened state of
awareness when you are there, time passes quite slowly and the
questions seem to go on forever. Fortunately the questions
suited me so it was easy to enjoy the experience of being in
that black chair, but it's not such fun when you're not getting
the questions right. "I had a fantastic experience. I wanted to
see if I could get on the show so winning the heat was way
beyond what I expected."
Stuart will be seen again when his semi final is
broadcast in April 2009.