Gala Academy maths teacher proves he’s not bad with words either

A maths teacher at Galashiels Academy has gone down in Countdown history by achieving the third-highest score ever in the popular afternoon show on Channel 4.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 3:50 pm
Updated Friday, 26th November 2021, 3:50 pm
Stu Harkness from Tweedbank, about to get his second nine-letter word in Countdown. Screenshot: Channel 4.

Stu Harkness from Tweedbank spotted no less than three nine-letter words in his letter games in his first show on Wednesday, November 24, to oust five-time champion Jack Millard with a final score of 148 to Jack’s 53.

That ensured he broke the record for the highest ever score from a challenger against a carryover champion.

Stu's skills with the numbers certainly didn’t let him down either.

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Talking to the Southern today, Stu said the response from the kids at school has been fantastic.

He said: “This wasn’t the first time I’ve appeared on the show. The first time was back in 2007, and I was beaten in my first game, so didn't do as well then.

"However, I’ve since done a lot of practice, and now play Scrabble competitively.

"And I did loads of practice during lockdown, so it must have put me in good stead.”

Stu’s three nine-letter words in that first show were “renovates”, “hortensia" and “tritanope”.

With the latter, Stu managed to come up with something that rarely ever happens … a word that the show’s lexicolographer in “Dictionary Corner” Susie Dent had never heard before.

For the record, a tritanope is a person who suffers from tritanopia … which means they can’t distinguish between the colours blue and yellow.

Stu said: “I think it was just a word I had come up against when I was practising.

"It was worth a shot as I was so ahead of Jack by then.

"It was tough on him, as he had been going really well, but it all just fell into place for me on the day.”

His performance in that first show brought great praise from numbers specialist Rachael Riley and even new host Anne Robinson, who is perhaps better known for her scathing comments to contestants in the Weakest Link.

Viewers of the show will know that Stu is still doing well and winning, but if you want to know if he reaches the heights of being an “octochamp” (a contestant who wins a run of eight matches) you’ll need to tune in to find out.