Melrose Mastermind

Now in its tenth year, the Borders Book Festival took place from Thursday 13th to Sunday 16th June. 
Back by popular demand following its introduction in 2012, the Melrose Mastermind event was held on the Sunday, the specialist subject of one of the contestants, the well-known actor and raconteur John Sessions, being “Clyde Steamers 1900-1970”.
Your Secretary was approached by the organisers at fairly short notice to provide suitable questions. I, with the assistance of Robert Cleary, Andrew Clark and Iain MacLeod, compiled a batch of questions from which Robert and I selected what we considered a balanced mixture of difficult and straightforward teasers, spread throughout the period in question. Hilary Buchan, the event’s Sponsorship, Web and Hospitality supremo, offered us a couple of complimentary tickets for the event, so Robert and I travelled down to Melrose.
The famous “Black Chair”
Image from Borders Book Festival website
Sally Magnusson
Image from BBC News website
Sally Magnusson was the questionmaster, or should that be chairperson as she brought along the original Mastermind black leather chair which the BBC had gifted to her father, Magnus, on his retiral from the original TV series. The event was held in a large marquee in the grounds of Harmony House, a NTS property, with over 300 in attendance, the competition being run in a manner similar to the TV programme, even to the familiar buzzer to signal the end of the two minute question time.
In her introduction Sally Magnusson highlighted the chosen specialist subjects of each of the contestants and there was a noticeable reaction from the audience when John’s “Clyde Steamers” choice was mentioned. Clearly there seemed to be a collective recall of happy days on the steamers, perhaps from past family holiday travel or the occasional day trips. John Sessions unfortunately did not win, as he had done last year when his chosen subject was the stories of Sherlock Holmes, the authoress Dr. Eleanor Updale notably outscoring the others on her specialist subject “The Archers” to take the title.
At the end, the CRSC’s part in compiling the questions was acknowledged by Sally Magnusson – Robert and I being prompted to stand up and take the applause of the assembled gathering.
Robert Cleary, John Sessions and Eric Schofield

For those not familiar with the Border country, Melrose is a small but exceedingly attractive town set in the shadow of the Eildon Hills, reputed burial spot of King Arthur. The ruins of Melrose Abbey, resting place of Robert the Bruce’s heart, dominate the town, which is also a welcome resting spot for those walking the challenging Southern Upland Way. Its place in the history of the Romans push into Scotland is acknowledged in the town’s Trimontium Trust Museum, and nearby is Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott.
For a town a good distance from the sea, it may seem surprising that Robert and I had a light lunch in The Ship Inn, one of the town’s hostelries.


The Ship Inn, Melrose, at sunset (David Purchase) / CC BY-SA 2.0

With a stop on the way home for an evening meal in Peebles, our visit to the beautiful Border Country provided a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable experience.

Eric Schofield