International quizzer and runner

Born: January 27, 1947;

Died: June 6, 2019

HAMISH Cameron, who has died of cancer aged 72, represented Scotland internationally both as a runner and a quizzer, appearing more often on Mastermind than anyone else in the history of the show, including one last posthumous appearance in the final last Friday.

He died the previous week and the show was broadcast just hours after his funeral in Morayshire, where he lived for most of his life. The BBC considered postponing it, but Cameron, who was already ill at the time it was recorded last November, had told his family that if he died he wanted the broadcast to go ahead as planned.

Cameron enjoyed pub quizzes, though he was teetotal - he had been known to win the local golf club quiz by himself, beating teams of six and then opting to take the booby prize of a Mars bar rather than wine or beer.

He first applied to Mastermind on a whim in 1990 when Magnus Magnusson was asking the questions and surprised himself by reaching the semi-final. Cameron had started, but he had very definitely not finished…

Mastermind first appeared on the BBC in 1972, with contestants being tested on a specialist subject of their choosing and then on general knowledge. The format, with its lonely black chair and rapid-fire questioning, was inspired by producer Bill Wright’s wartime interrogation by the Gestapo.

Originally contestants were allowed to appear on the show only once, but the BBC changed the rules in the 1990s. Cameron appeared on eight different series, including the one-off series on the Discovery Channel in 2001.

Mastermind returned to the BBC in 2003 with John Humphrys as questionmaster and Cameron appeared on six more series, reaching the final on the last two. He appeared on 17 shows in total.

The production team take finalists to an appropriate location to film them talking about their chosen subject before their specialist round. For Cameron’s first final in 2013, other contestants went to Italy, Germany and Massachusetts, but Cameron got only a short trip to Fraserburgh after selecting Scottish Lighthouses as his specialism.

He also appeared on the Radio 4 version of Mastermind, though it was never quite as popular on radio - the lonely walk to the black chair was not quite so dramatic without visuals.

But it was running that was Cameron’s first love. He joined Forres Harriers when he was still at school. But again his greatest achievements came later in life when he represented Scotland as a veteran in international cross-country races.

As a quizzer he helped Scotland win the Celtic Nations Championship a few years ago. And as a runner he was a medal-winner in the Five Nations Masters International Cross-Country event in Belfast in 2012 and Dublin in 2015.

He was born Hamish William Cameron into a farming family in Cromarty in 1947 and grew up on farms near Knockando - walking a mile and a half to and from school each day, and then outside Forres, where he attended Forres Academy. By the time he was seven he was driving his father’s tractor, while his father pulled neeps.

He studied maths at Aberdeen University and took a job in the computer department at British Steel in Glasgow. He met his wife Edna at Kelvinside Rugby Club and recognised her as a contemporary from Aberdeen University, though they had not previously spoken.

They married in 1975 and moved back to the North of Scotland in 1981 when Cameron took a job as computer manager at Johnstons woollen mill in Elgin. He rejoined Forres Harriers and was club secretary for 30 years. He was also secretary of the North District Cross Country League and treasurer of Moray Bridge Club.

Cameron could run a marathon in well under three hours, before deciding to focus on shorter distances and cross-country. He was a regular at park runs in Elgin, in Edinburgh, where he could combine a race in the morning with quizzing for the rest of the day, and overseas, regularly fitting races into his holiday schedule.

He had a passion for history and a great memory for dates, though he was not always so good with names. He would recognise car registration numbers, but not remember the names of the owners.

He and his wife agreed to give their younger daughter Isla the middle name Suzanne. But when he went to register it he could not remember what they agreed. He guessed Samantha following the quizzers’ philosophy that it is always best to have a guess rather than not answer at all.

I knew Cameron personally, both through running and quizzing. I would meet him at races and we were both in The Dude Abides team that won the Max Thomson Cup, the Scottish championship, two years running in the early 2010s. He was a focused and practical individual, well-known and well-liked in quizzing and running circles.

He came fourth in Friday’s Mastermind final, after taking the artist Mary Cassatt as his specialism. The BBC dedicated the programme to him and it ended with a screen that read simply “In memory of Hamish William Cameron, 27.01.1947- 06.06.2019, A True Mastermind”.

He is survived by his wife Edna and three children, Mairi, Isla and Niall, who is an international table-tennis player.