It was 19 years ago that glitter first came falling from ceiling of the now legendary Who Wants to be a Millionaire? studio.
But since then only six people have managed to scoop the top prize.
It had been 14 years since someone had taken home TV’s biggest cheque until teacher Donald Fear won the million back in September without anyone correctly answering the show’s final question.
It was also the first time someone had succesfully answered the show’s final question under new host, former Top Gear frontman Jeremy Clarkson.
Previously hosted by Chris Tarrant from its debut in 1998, it went on to become a huge hit across the globe.
It is now produced in 83 languages, and inspired Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning 2008 movie, Slumdog Millionaire, as well as ITV’s hit drama Quiz – about a cheating contesant.
Now, a new ITV series returns to the handful of contestants who managed to correctly answer of 15 questions, to find out what happened to them after the cameras stopped rolling reports the Mirror.
Software developer Pat, from Wigan, is one of the world’s most successful quiz champions and in 2018 was ranked the number one quizzer in the world.
Proving his prowess, he was the only finalist ever to reach the million-pound question with two of his lifelines left.
Following his Millionaire win in April 2004, he went part time to devote himself to quizzing, and was crowned Mastermind champion a year later before winning BBC Radio 4’s Brain of Britain, and landing a part on Eggheads, a year after that.
Unlike the other winners, Dad-of-two Pat, 59 insists he didn’t go on the show for the huge cash prize.
He says: “It’s a high profile programme and an exhilarating challenge to try to win it. It was only afterwards when it registered that I’d won the money too. Obviously there was satisfaction in that too, but it wasn’t the reason I did it.”
Pat who spent weeks trying to enter the show, thought he’d missed out on a chance after two contestants came and went on his episode and then he got the answer wrong for the third ‘fastest finger’ round.
“But then Chris said nobody had got it right, so we were back in play. They didn’t show that on TV, but by the time I was in the seat I was already feeling extremely tense.
On his £1m question, Pat used his 50:50 and then his phone-a-friend before correctly guessing the Arlington Million was not one of the American Triple Crown horse races.
Following his win, little changed in Pat’s life, apart from him moving to working part time, one week on and one week off.
Whereas many millionaires might spend their money on foreign holidays or luxury purchases, Pat indulges in his love of quizzing, spending four to five hours a day honing his general knowledge skills.
He says: “Everyone always wants to know about the yacht or the horses, but there are none. We’re still living in the same house, and only ever changed cars when we needed to, once when a thief sheered off the steering wheel.”
But winning the million has given him unexpected fame. “I once got recognised while I was filling up a car at a petrol station in Oxfordshire.
“And in London, a load of binmen on the other side of the street started shouting, ‘it’s him off the telly!’. But otherwise nothing much has changed.”
A distant cousin of Camilla Parker-Bowles, Judith became the first ever winner in November 2000 and the only woman to have ever pocketed the prize.
The £1million question saw her correctly guess that Henry II was the husband of Eleanor of Aquitane.
The win couldn’t have come sooner for twice-divorced Judith, a newly-qualified garden designer who was trying to set up her own business and struggling to make ends meet.
After reaching £16,000 before her episode ran out of time, the mother-of-three treated herself to a cashmere sweater from Harrods.
After winning the prize a week later, teetotal Judith, who attended Alcoholic Anonymous after her 1980 divorce from her first husband, celebrated with a cola and enrolled on a four-day money management course.
Cautious of wasting her win, she bought a relatively modest £20,000 Audi, holidayed in India and Asia and made a donation to a tiger conservation charity.
She also swapped her Fulham townhouse for a small London flat, and bought a property in Albi, southwest France, before landing a regular role on BBC game show Eggheads in 2003.
Judith, now 78, remembers how she concocted a plan to get on the show by calling 250 times.
She says: “I targeted one episode, and I basically stayed on the telephone until they answered, which took about a day and a half. I calculated, if each call cost 75p, I’d get all that back if I got into the chair – forgetting about the fastest finger round.
“At one point BT rang me up and said, ‘do you realise your telephone’s being used rather a lot?’
“I was pretty skint after my divorce and I was starting to get a little worried, that’s one of the reasons I did it. I think if I didn’t win the money I’d be in the workhouse frankly!”
Judith believes her luck continued when she’d finally made it to the contestant’s chair, especially when it came to the final question.
She says: “Thankfully I didn’t get any sports, science or pop music questions. I wouldn’t have been any good on those.
“The £1million question was extraordinary. I’d been in France that summer and as I drove back I stopped in a place called Fontevraud, where there was this enormous abbey with four tombs.
“One was Eleanor and the other was her husband, Henry II – the answer. If I hadn’t stopped there I wouldn’t have known, and would probably have forfeited the question and taken the money.”
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Judith, who has five grandchildren, adds: “Winning the money gave me a huge sense of relief, a feeling of safety. I didn’t see it as something to go out and spend, but to invest and use to fund my life.
“I did eventually buy a house in France, where I lived for six months of the year, but I made a huge loss when I sold it five years ago. Still, I think the amount I have today is about the same as when I won it. It means I have something to leave my family.”
Desperate to be able to leave his job as a physics teacher, David made it his mission to get on the programme and win enough to retire.
The Mensa Superbrain and past Mastermind winner devoted £1,000 to phoning the show after calculating how many times he would need to call to get on.
Welshman David, from Cheadle, Staffs, also practised finger co-ordination for the Fastest Finger selection round, having managed to get on once but being beaten to the contestant’s chair.
His scheme worked and in April 2001 he became the show’s second winner, pocketing £1m after correctly identifying Quercus Robber as the Latin name for a type of tree.
David, now 73, who was head of science at Denstone College private school recalls: “At first I didn’t consider it seriously as the chances were incredibly difficult.
“But if I had a bad day a work, or a parents’ evening that went on too long, instead of kicking the cat or downing half a bottle of whiskey, I’d call the show. It was almost a sort of therapy.
“I’d worked out that, if I called the show 2,000 times over two years, my chances of getting on were about 94%. It wasn’t a gamble, it was just a risky investment.
“I was no different from any other teacher at that time, we had enough to live on but no more than that. There was the occasional month where there’d been an unexpected bill and you were watching the pounds. I was a free dinner kid as a child, I knew what it was like to go without.”
But after picking up the top prize, the thrifty dad-of-two went back to work, swapped his battered VW Passat with a newer VW Passat, and only moved 200 yards down the road to a slightly bigger house with wife Vivian.
He later bought land in Languedoc, near the Pyrenees in France, and built a second home.
He says: “My first purchases were a couple of laptops for my son and daughter. I stayed working at the school for two more years, I didn’t want to drop my students before their exams.
The money allowed my wife and me to retire early, and the house in France we’d never have dreamed of having. We’ve also have experiences and holidays which are more than we’d ever dreamed of, such as the Antarctic and Greenland.”
David also says he invested rather and squandered his jackpot.
“My guess if you top the whole lot up is that it’s not that different to what is was. It’s a life-changing amount of money but an amount you can’t become a playboy on,” he says.
Quizzing enthusiast Ingram was broke from his divorce and living in a one-bed flat in Bath, Wilts, when he became the fifth winner in September 2006.
After scooping the prize he quit his £20,000-a-year job as a civil servant in Chippenham, spread £250,000 among his five children and bought a VW Touran.
A year later, he splashed out on a five-bed, £250,000 property with its own island in Miramont-de-Guyenne, near Bordeaux in France.
Ingram, 76, now married to his second wife, Pat, 57, spends his days birdwatching, reading books and “pottering about”.
He says “life was pretty quiet” before he scooped the jackpot.
“It wasn’t too bad but I could have done with a change. I wasn’t particularly struggling – a civil servant’s life may be full but it’s fairly secure. I had a steady overdraft which wasn’t growing enormously. I was getting by.
“Where I really felt the pinch was cars. I lost my first car, which I inherited from my dad, when my crazy neighbour set fire to it.
“After that it was difficult to get a car I wasn’t afraid would fall apart under me. My only dream was to have a nice solid car that would still be going when I got from A to B.”
Ingram, who had reached the final of Mastermind and appeared on Fifteen to One, had used up all his lifelines when he reached the £1m question, but correctly guessed that the boxer famous for striking the gong at the start of J Arthur Rank films is Bombardier Billy Wells.
He remembers that the first thing he bought was a green banker’s lamp.
He says: “I don’t know what it is about them, they’re quite peaceful. So I went to a posh shop in Bath and got an antique one for £250. To spent that on a lamp seemed quite outlandish to me.
“I went back to work just to clear my desk and that was it.”
Ingram says he also lent £25,000 to a friend who asked for a loan because he couldn’t pay his mortgage, but never paid him back. “He stopped answering his phone. I later found out that he had sold his house but hadn’t returned the money.”
He admits “quite a bit’s gone, but I’m not hard up.
“Strictly speaking I’m living off my civil service pension, but I’ve got the capital as a cushion. I’m now living in a watermill by a river, and my biggest expenditure is on camera equipment so I can photograph the birds. Thanks to the show I’ve been able to live a life I never dreamed of getting to live.”
- Who Wants To Be A Millionaire: The Million Pound Question starts on ITV on November 22, 8pm.