A Viscount's son who cut his teeth on Tyneside pub quizzes is in tonight’s University Challenge final.
Matthew Ridley, whose father is science journalist Matt Ridley, the 5th Viscount Ridley of Blagdon Hall in Northumberland, stars in the all-Oxbridge showdown which will air on BBC2 at 8pm.
The 20-year-old economics student represents Trinity College, Cambridge, and alongside his three team-mates he will be put through his paces by Jeremy Paxman as they take on Somerville College, Oxford.
Yet long before cameras shone a spotlight on the former Royal Grammar School pupil’s academic prowess, the youngster could be found competing for slices of pizza at a pub quiz in Jesmond in Newcastle.
Matthew, who is currently back at his family’s home revising for his finals, said: “My first pub quizzes were at The Brandling in Jesmond. I think I did OK – once or twice I came third and got a free slice of pizza.
“I’d always watch University Challenge at home and desperately try to get the answers in before my dad. My whole family are definitely quite competitive that way.
“I never expected to make the University Challenge team at college however. I’d tried out really just for a bit of fun.”
His team are the favourites going into tonight’s final after clocking 260 points against defending champions University of Manchester in the semi-final on March 24.
Matthew has to remain tight lipped over the result of tonight’s show but even their debut performance back in July 2013 saw the team grab an impressive 300 points against Christ Church, Oxford.
“My strengths are economics but also geography, history and current affairs. It’s quite nice in a way, though, that you can’t practise too much for University Challenge. Mainly it’s knowledge you have picked up your whole life. You can, of course, practise buzzing fast and try to make educated guesses. Pop music is one of our weaknesses.”
Matthew went to Newlands School, now Newcastle School for Boys, before taking his GCSEs and A-levels at the Royal Grammar School at Eskdale Terrace.
His father Matt, 56, is a journalist and science writer and his mother Anya Hulbert is Professor of Visual Neuroscience at the University of Newcastle. Matthew’s youngster sister Iris, 16, attended Central High in Newcastle and now studies at Hurtwood House in Surrey, The family live at Blagdon Hall near Seaton Burn.
“I’ve done a bit of practice at home with my dad round the dinner table,” said Matthew.
“One question he gave me was about the chiffchaff bird which actually came up on one of the shows and I got it wrong. I think dad might have been shouting at the screen at that point!”
Viscount Ridley said the whole family were hugely proud of Matthew and his team-mates on reaching the final.
He said: “It is also a great tribute to the schools that educated him in Newcastle, Newlands and Royal Grammar School.
“As an Oxford graduate myself I should perhaps support Somerville but I suspect I will not.”
Matthew has a place at Oxford to study a masters in economics in September.