Credit: Shutterstock/Magnus Magnusson

I’ve started, so I’ll finish

For over a quarter of a century, Magnus Magnusson sat as the interrogator on the BBC’s toughest quiz, Mastermind. His commanding tone and imposing Nordic figure made him a fearsome prospect for contestants, even if his demeanor away from the program was always noted as being kindly and welcoming.

Magnus was born in Reykjavík but grew up in Edinburgh where his father, Sigursteinn Magnússon acted as consul. From an early age showed a passion for history and following his graduation from Jesus College, Oxford he began presenting historical and archaeological programs for the BBC. In 1972 he took up the role of quiz master on Mastermind, one of the longest running quiz shows in BBC history.

As well as being one of television’s most formidable quiz show hosts, Magnus Magnusson was an adept translator and helped to translate many Icelandic books from both modern Icelandic and Old Norse into English. When he wasn’t busy making Nordic mythology accessible to the masses, Magnusson was busy writing for himself. His books covered a wide variety of topics from the history of the Holy Land to behind the scenes on Mastermind.

After leaving the limelight and stepping away from television, he continued to write for The New Statesman into his old age. His broadcasting spirit is carried on by his daughter Sally, who now presents for BBC Scotland, and his son Jon, a TV producer, writer and director.