Magnus Magnusson

Magnus Magnusson, KBE ([ˈmaknus ˈmaknusɔn]; 12 October 1929 – 7 January 2007) was an Icelandic journalist, translator, writer, and television presenter. Born in Reykjavík, he lived in Scotland for almost all his life, although he never took British citizenship. He came to prominence as a BBC television journalist and was best known as the presenter of the BBC television quiz programme Mastermind, which he hosted for 25 years.[1] He is also known for his famous catchphrase "I've started so I'll finish", which he said whenever the time ran out while he was reading a question on Mastermind.

Magnus Magnusson

Magnus Magnusson
Born12 October 1929
Died7 January 2007 (aged 77)
Balmore, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
Alma materJesus College, Oxford
OccupationTelevision presenter, journalist, translator and writer
Known forMastermind presenter, translation work
Spouse(s)Mamie Baird
Children5, including Sally and Jon

Early life

Magnús Sigursteinsson was born in Reykjavík on 12 October 1929. But he grew up in Edinburgh, where his father, Sigursteinn Magnússon, was the Icelandic consul. In Scotland his family adopted a British naming convention and from childhood (rather than his Icelandic name) Magnus used his father's patronymic surname: Magnusson.

Magnusson lived with his family lived in John Street, Joppa, an eastern suburb of Edinburgh. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy and was in the school's marching brass band.[2]



After graduating from Jesus College, Oxford, Magnusson became a reporter with the Scottish Daily Express and The Scotsman. He went freelance in 1967, then joined the British Broadcasting Corporation, presenting programmes on history and archaeology (including Chronicle and BC The Archaeology of the Bible Lands), as well as appearing in news programmes.


Magnusson presented the long-running quiz show Mastermind from 1972 to 1997 on BBC1. His catchphrase, which the current presenter John Humphrys has continued to use, was "I've started so I'll finish". Magnusson made cameo appearances as himself, hosting Mastermind in Morecambe and Wise as well as the children's series Dizzy Heights and as Magnus Magnesium in The Goodies episode "Frankenfido".

Magnusson ended his 25-year run of hosting Mastermind in September 1997, and the original Black Chair was given to him at the end of the production, passing to his daughter Sally Magnusson after his death.

Magnusson later returned to present a one-off celebrity special, originally broadcast on 30 December 2002, on BBC Two to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first ever Mastermind final.[3] This was a precursor to the main show returning to the BBC with a new host, John Humphrys. The first series of the main show hosted by Humphrys began on BBC Two on 7 July 2003.[4] Following the one-off special, Celebrity Mastermind began airing as a full series also hosted by Humphrys.[5] The celebrity version of the show has continued every year since, alongside the main show. Shortly before his death, Magnusson returned to the regular Mastermind series in order to present the trophy to the 2006 champion Geoff Thomas. His daughter Sally Magnusson presented the trophy to the next series winner, David Clark, while also paying tribute to her father and his legacy to the show.


  • Introducing Archaeology
  • Viking Expansion Westwards
  • The Clacken and the Slate (The Edinburgh Academy, 1824 - 1974)
  • Viking Hammer of the North
  • BC : The Archaeology of the Bible Lands
  • Landlord or Tenant?: A view of Irish History
  • Iceland
  • Vikings!
  • Magnus on the move
  • Treasures of Scotland
  • Lindisfarne: The Cradle Island
  • Reader's Digest Book of Facts (ed.)
  • Iceland Saga
  • Chambers Biographical Dictionary (ed., 5th edition)
  • The Nature of Scotland (ed.)
  • I've Started, So I'll Finish
  • Rum: Nature's Island
  • Magnus Magnusson's Quiz Book


Magnusson translated a variety of books from modern Icelandic and Old Norse into English. Among these are several works by Halldór Laxness, the Nobel prize-winning novelist from Iceland as well as a number of Norse sagas which he co-translated (with Hermann Pálsson) for the Penguin Classics series: Njal's Saga (1960), The Vinland Sagas (1965), King Harald's Saga (1966) and Laxdaela Saga (1969). Magnusson was also the author of a popular history of the Viking age, called The Vikings (revised edition, 2000).[6]

Awards and charity positions

Magnusson was awarded an honorary knighthood (Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1989. He was elected President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, for a five-year period, at their 94th AGM in October 1995, succeeding Max Nicholson. He also became the founder chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage upon its inception in 1992. He was Lord Rector of Edinburgh University from 1975 to 1978 and later in 2002, became Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University. The Magnus Magnusson Fellowship, an intellectual group based at the Glasgow Caledonian University, was named in his honour. [7]

Later life

The Magnus House near Struy
Magnus House near Aigas

In later years, Magnusson also wrote for the New Statesman.[8] On 12 October 2006, his 77th birthday, Magnusson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Magnusson mordantly noted that "This has to be one of my worst birthdays ever". His condition forced him to cancel a string of public appearances. He died on 7 January 2007.[9][10][11] The Aigas Field Centre has a building named the Magnus House in his honour.


Magnus Magnusson was married to Mamie Baird (1925–2012). They had five children. Their eldest son, Siggi, died in a traffic accident in 1973, when he was struck by a vehicle close to the Glasgow Academy playing fields at Anniesland, Glasgow. Their daughter Sally is a journalist, writer and TV presenter, and youngest son Jon a TV producer, writer and director.[12][13][14]


  • Viking Expansion Westwards (1973), ISBN 978-0-8098-3529-4
  • The Clacken and the Slate (1974), ISBN 0-00-411170-2
  • Viking, Hammer of the North (1976), ISBN 978-0-399-11744-2
  • BC The Archaeology of the Bible Lands (1977), ISBN 978-0-671-24010-3
  • The Vikings (1980), ISBN 978-0-7524-2699-0
  • Lindisfarne, The Cradle Island (1984), ISBN 0-85362-223-X
  • Chambers Biographical Dictionary (1990), as General Editor, ISBN 0-550-16040 X Hardback
  • Scotland Since Prehistory: Natural Change and Human Impact (1993), ISBN 978-1-898218-03-6
  • I've Started So I'll Finish (1998), ISBN 978-0-7515-2585-4
  • Scotland: The Story of a Nation (2000), ISBN 978-0-00-653191-3
  • Lindisfarne (2004), ISBN 978-0-7524-3227-4
  • Fakers, Forgers and Phoneys: Famous Scams and Scamps (2005), ISBN 978-1-84596-190-9
  • Iceland Saga (2005), ISBN 978-0-7524-3342-4
  • Keeping Your Words: An Anthology of Quotations (2005), ISBN 978-0-340-86264-3


  1. ^ ODNB, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2005–2008 ed. Lawrence Goldman 2013 page 740
  2. ^ "Magnus Magnusson". Telegraph Media Group Limited. 8 January 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  3. ^ BBC Press Office (6 December 2002). "Mastermind Celebrity Special".
  4. ^ BBC. "The history of Mastermind". Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  5. ^ BBC Press Office (27 October 2003). "Rt Hon David Blunkett MP to appear on Mastermind".
  6. ^ "Magnus Magnusson". The Independent. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  7. ^ Roger Crofts and David Breeze. "Magnus Magnusson" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 19 October 2015.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Magnus Magnusson". New Statesman. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  9. ^ "Magnusson faces cancer treatment". BBC News. 12 October 2006. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  10. ^ "TV's Magnus Magnusson dies at 77". BBC News. 8 January 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  11. ^ "Obituary: Magnus Magnusson". BBC News. 7 January 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  12. ^ Rachel Carlyle (2 February 2014). "BBC presenter Sally Magnusson on her mum's battle with dementia". BBC Press Office. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  13. ^ "Mamie Magnusson". 17 April 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  14. ^ "Sally Magnusson, Presenter". BBC Press Office. March 2006. Archived from the original on 4 May 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2015.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Gordon Brown
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
Succeeded by
Anthony Ross
Media offices
New creation Host of Mastermind
Succeeded by
Peter Snow
1929 in Iceland

The following lists events that happened in 1929 in Iceland.


The term cateran (from the Gaelic ceathairne, a collective word meaning "peasantry") historically referred to a band of fighting men of a Scotland Highland clan; hence the term applied to the Highland, and later to any, marauders or cattle-lifters. An individual member is a ceithernach or catanach. According to Randy Lee Eichoff it derives from Old Celtic 'cat' (battle, war) and 'nach' (man, fellow) Catanach means war-man, warrior. Its plural is ceithern or ceithrenn or caithereine or kettering or kettenring and several other spellings.

Magnus Magnusson states that some Highland chieftains retained substantial private armies of professional soldiers known as 'ceatharn' used against their neighboursProblems arose when the third royal son of King Robert II, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan (the King's Lieutenant for areas of Scotland north of the Moray Firth) began using a force of 'caterans' himself. Subsequently, the word 'cateran' came to refer to those Highland bandits or malefactors.

Caterans feature in many Scottish novels and short stories, notably Hamish MacTavish Mhor in Walter Scott's 'The Highland Widow'.

Stories of the Cateran cattle-raiding tradition of the Scottish clans can be found in 'School of the Moon' by Stuart McHardy.

Chronicle (British TV programme)

Chronicle is a British television programme that was shown monthly and then fortnightly on BBC Two from 18 June 1966 until its last broadcast on 29 May 1991. Chronicle focused on popular archaeology and related subjects, and was considered an influential programme and a landmark in early television presentation of archaeology. The programme was commissioned by David Attenborough in 1966, and was produced by the Archaeological and Historical Unit headed by Paul Johnstone and later edited by Bruce Norman. Among the presenters of the programme were Magnus Magnusson, Colin Renfrew, David Drew, and John Julius Norwich.

Elizabeth Horrocks

Elizabeth Horrocks (born 3 May 1946) is an author and winner of the BBC quiz series Mastermind.

Horrocks attended Whitchurch Grammar School in Cardiff, a school also attended by fellow writer Andrew Davies. She then graduated from Bristol University in 1967, after which she went on to have a teaching career. Schools at which she taught include The Grove School Market Drayton, Clayton Hall School in Newcastle Staffs, and Hyde Clarendon College in Hyde, Greater Manchester

In 1974, Horrocks contested and won the BBC Mastermind programme, hosted by Magnus Magnusson with specialist subjects Shakespeare's plays, Works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Works of Dorothy L. Sayers. Subsequently, she took part in various Mastermind "Specials", most recently Mastermind Champion of Champions in 2010, answering questions on "Arthurian Legend", which has been a lifelong subject for her.Horrocks is the author of the Arthurian Trilogy featuring the works The Edge of Doom, The Dark Space and The New Found Land. She has a new take on the Arthurian legend with the introduction of time travel mixed with the rural and quiet settings of Alderley Edge in Cheshire.


"Frankenfido" is an episode of the award-winning British comedy television series The Goodies.

As with other episodes in the series, this episode was written by members of The Goodies.

Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow Caledonian University (informally GCU, Caledonian or Caley) is a public university in Glasgow, Scotland. It was formed in 1993 by the merger of The Queen's College, Glasgow (founded in 1875) and Glasgow Polytechnic (founded in 1971).In June 2017, the university's New York partner institution, which was founded in 2013, was granted permission to award degrees in the state, the first higher education institution founded by a foreign university to achieve this status.

God, the Universe and Everything Else

God, the Universe and Everything Else is a 1988 documentary featuring Stephen Hawking, Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan, and moderated by Magnus Magnusson. They discuss the Big Bang theory, God and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Hermann Pálsson

Hermann Pálsson (26 May 1921 – 11 August 2002) was an Icelandic language scholar and translator, "one of the most distinguished scholars of Icelandic studies of his generation". Often working in collaboration with others such as Magnus Magnusson or Paul Edwards, he translated around 40 works of medieval Icelandic literature.


Igelström is the surname of a Swedish noble family from Nylödöse. The earliest reference dates back to 1529, with Bengt Haraldsson being the oldest of known ancestors. The surname Igelström originated thanks to Harald Bengtsson (1604–1678) in 1645 and was registered in the List of Swedish noble families in 1647. The successors of Igelstrom owned estates in Livonia and in Estonia, in 1739 five brothers Igelstrom received the noble titles of barons in Poland, and in 1792 in Germany and in Russia.

The name was registered in several of the House of Nobility in the Baltic states and Germany under spelling Igelstrom or von Igelstroem.

Summary of genealogical table of the Stora Wånga FamilySimon, lived 1350–1370. Squire. His shield: three silver bands in a blue field.

Magnus Simonsson, lived 1403. married with Margaretha von Putten.

Anders Magnusson to Ljusefords. lived 1410–1436. He participated in Engelbrekt's War of Freedom. Magnus Anderson to Stora Wånga, lived 1444. Married with Christina Tonissadotter (widowed from the senator Carl Magnusson from Elifstorpa)

Magnus Magnusson from Stora Wånga, lived 1490.

Harald Magnusson from Stora Wånga. He was an established man of family and class.

Bengt Haraldsson from Stora Wånga. He left Sweden in 1529. Married to Catharina Johansdotter Lind.

Harald Bengtsson. Died in the 1570s. Lord from Surte and Söderby. Secretary at Elfsborg and Merchant in Lödöse. Married Ragnhild Svensdotter.

Bengt Haraldsson, district clerk, 1625.

Anders Haraldsson, died 1649, Lord from Söderby, Surte and Folered, district judge, was granted the honor of nobility with the name Appelbom (introduced 1647 under no. 325) Progenitor (first fathers) of the baronial family of Appelbom.

Harald Bengtsson Igelström, died 1677.

Jamie Stone (film director)

Jamie Magnus Stone (born 15 December 1985) is a Scottish film director and animator, who studied at the National Film and Television School. He is the son of Scottish broadcaster Sally Magnusson and film director Norman Stone and grandson of Magnus Magnusson.


Jomsborg or Jómsborg (German: Jomsburg) was a semi-legendary Viking stronghold at the southern coast of the Baltic Sea (medieval Wendland, modern Pomerania), that existed between the 960s and 1043. Its inhabitants were known as Jomsvikings. Jomsborg's exact location, or its existence, has not yet been established, though it is often maintained that Jomsborg was somewhere on the islands of the Oder estuary. Lauritz Weibull dismissed it as a legend.

Jon Magnusson (producer)

Jon Magnusson is a British producer, writer and director. He is the son of Magnus Magnusson, the original presenter of Mastermind and Mamie Baird, a journalist, and a brother of TV presenter Sally Magnusson.

Magnusson produced the medical sketch show Struck Off and Die, several episodes of the spoof radio panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, and episodes of the sketch series Bremner, Bird and Fortune and Alas Smith and Jones on television.

He has a long involvement with Graham Norton, as producer of So Graham Norton (1999), Graham Norton's Bigger Picture (2005), and series producer of The Graham Norton Show (2009–2018).Magnusson was awarded a BAFTA for Best Entertainment Programme or Series for The Graham Norton Show in 2013, and for So Graham Norton in 2001, and was nominated for the same award for the same programme in 2000. Magnusson was also nominated for another BAFTA, the Best Light Entertainment award, for impressionist show Rory Bremner, Who Else?Magnusson credits Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones ("the Guv'nors") with teaching him to write comedy, and has written for Bremner, Bird and Fortune and So Graham Norton.

Magnus Magnusson, Earl of Orkney

Magnus Magnusson was Earl of Orkney from 1273 to 1284. In 1284 he joined with other Scottish noblemen who acknowledged Margaret of Norway as the heir of Alexander.

Magnus Magnusson (disambiguation)

People named Magnus Magnusson (or similar) include:

Magnus Magnusson, Icelandic-born and British-based television presenter, journalist, translator and writer

Magnus Magnusson, Earl of Orkney, Earl of Orkney between 1273 and 1284

Magnús Magnússon (strongman), Icelandic strongman and former winner of Iceland's Strongest Man

Magnús Ver Magnússon, Icelandic powerlifter and strongman, and four-time World's Strongest Man


Magnusson, or Magnússon, is a surname of Scandinavian origin, meaning son of Magnus.

Arn Magnusson, fictional character created by Jan Guillou

Árni Magnússon, Icelandic scholar

Arne Magnusson, fictional character from the Half-Life video game series

Birger jarl, or Birger Magnusson of Bjälbo, founder of Stockholm

Birger of Sweden, or Birger Magnusson, King of Sweden 1284–1318

Eggert Magnússon, chairman of West Ham United F.C.

Eirik II of Norway, King of Norway 1280–1299

Eiríkr Magnússon, Icelandic scholar

Emil Magnusson, Swedish athlete

Eric XII of Sweden, rival King of Sweden 1356–1359

Eric, Duke of Södermanland, or Erik Magnusson

Eskil Magnusson, lawspeaker of Västergötland

Eystein I of Norway, or Øystein Magnusson, King of Norway 1103–1123

Finnur Magnússon, Icelandic scholar and archæologist (also known as Finn Magnussen)

Mikel Magnusson, candidate for the Green Party of Manitoba

Haakon Magnusson of Norway, King of Norway 1093–1094

Håkon V of Norway, King of Norway 1299–1319

Håkon VI of Norway, King of Norway 1343–1380

Hilde Magnusson Lydvo, Norwegian Labour Party politician

Hörður Magnússon (disambiguation), several people

Inge Magnusson, Norwegian pretender to King Sverre Sigurdsson

Jon Magnusson, Earl of Orkney 1284–c. 1300

Jón Arnar Magnússon, Icelandic decathlete

Jón Magnússon (politician), Icelandic politician

Magnus Magnusson, Earl of Orkney 1273–1284

Magnus Magnusson, Icelandic/Scottish television presenter, journalist, translator and writer

Magnús Ver Magnússon, Icelandic powerlifter and World's Strongest Man champion

Mats Magnusson, Swedish football player

Olaf Magnusson of Norway, King of Norway 1103–1115

Pandora, Swedish eurodance artist, real name Anneli Magnusson

Páll Magnússon, president of the RÚV and news anchor for Sjónvarpið

Per Magnusson, Swedish songwriter

Princess Christina, Mrs. Magnuson, sister of the current King of Sweden

Ragnar Magnusson (1901–1981), Swedish long-distance runner

Sally Magnusson, Scottish broadcaster and writer

Sigurd I of Norway, King of Norway 1103–1130

Sigurd Magnusson, Norwegian pretender to King Sverre Sigurdsson

Thomas Magnusson, Swedish cross-country skier

Valdemar Magnusson, Duke of Finland

Magnús Magnússon (strongman)

Not to be confused with strongman Magnús Ver Magnússon. For other people named Magnús Magnússon, see Magnus Magnusson (disambiguation)Magnús Magnússon is an Icelandic strongman competitor and former winner of Iceland's Strongest Man.

Peter Sinclair (broadcaster)

Peter Sinclair (15 November 1937 – 8 August 2001) was a New Zealand television personality and radio host.

Born in Sydney, Australia, he rose to fame in the 1960s and early 1970s firstly on New Zealand radio and then as host of Let's Go, Happen Inn and C'mon, New Zealand's primary rock music television shows of the time.

In the late 1970s he reinvented his place in New Zealand television as presenter and quizmaster on University Challenge and Mastermind, two popular television quiz shows which ran until the late 1980s. Sinclair's measured on-screen personality was suited to these kinds of interactive game shows. As a quizmaster he made the phrase "I've started, so I'll finish..." (originally coined by Magnus Magnusson on the British version of Mastermind), a New Zealand cultural cliché. Sinclair also hosted the 1982 Mastermind International contest in New Zealand.Sinclair was also a noted writer, penning a novel called The Frontman and writing regular columns for the New Zealand Herald newspaper. In later years he was a radio announcer from 1986, for Radio Avon, in Christchurch, the city he grew up in, which became C93FM, before moving on to Classic Hits FM and finally Easy Listening i98FM, hosting the popular Lovesongs till Midnight program. While still in Christchurch he helped raise money to build a Police Kiosk in Cathedral Square, for people who needed a safe place to go at all times of the day in case of emergencies. In his later years, he developed a passion for computers and was one of the first New Zealanders to become actively involved with the Internet. He wrote widely on internet issues, software developments and content.

Sinclair died in Auckland on 8 August 2001, from leukaemia, aged 62.


Redgauntlet (1824) is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, set in Dumfries, Scotland in 1765, and described by Magnus Magnusson (a point first made by Andrew Lang) as "in a sense, the most autobiographical of Scott's novels." It describes the beginnings of a fictional third Jacobite Rebellion, and includes "Wandering Willie's Tale", a famous short story which frequently appears in anthologies.

Þórunn Elfa Magnúsdóttir

Þórunn Elfa Magnúsdóttir (July 20, 1910 – February 26, 1995) was an Icelandic writer.The daughter of Magnús Magnússon and Margét Magnúsdóttir, she was born in Reykjavík and was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in northern Iceland when she was six. She had to leave school because of tuberculosis. She later attended college in Drammen and Ósló, and university in Uppsala. She published her first work, a trilogy of novels Dætur Reykjavíkur I-III in 1933, 1934 and 1938.She was active in the Icelandic Women's Rights Association and was also involved in writers' associations.She married Jóni Þórðarsyn, a professor and author; the couple had two sons.

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