Eight months on – Telford's TV millionaire Don reflects on life after big win

Eight months ago Donald Fear became the first Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? contestant in 14 years to win the £1 million jackpot.

Donald Fear is looking forward to his local tennis club restarting tonight after more than a year's hiatus
Donald Fear is looking forward to his local tennis club restarting tonight after more than a year's hiatus

Since then, Don has given away 70 per cent of his winnings to members of his family and splashed out on a motor home as well a string of home improvements.

Although he is yet to realise his dreams of travelling the world – with those plans on hold during the pandemic – he says his life did get 'exciting' last month with the arrival of his two grandsons, Oliver and Dylan.

The 58-year-old, who also has a two-year-old granddaughter called Emily, said: "Dylan's parents were visiting us from Newton Abbot in Devon, just for a weekend, when Dylan decided to put in an appearance seven weeks early and was born in the Princess Royal Hospital at just 4lb 13oz.

Donald Fear in his garden in Telford

"It was lovely and my wife was able to support our youngest daughter, Isabelle – Dylan's mum – for a time afterwards."

After scooping the £1 million prize on the ITV show last September, the head of history and politics at Haberdashers' Adams in Newport returned to the classroom rather than hanging up his name badge.

He finally said his fond farewells to pupils and staff at the school, where he had taught since 2013, when he retired in December.

Donald Fear, from Telford, celebrates his £1m jackpot win on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? with show host Jeremy Clarkson, right

A popular teacher, he was overwhelmed with messages both when he won his million and on his retirement.

He said he delved back into his days teaching to win the jackpot. He correctly answered the 15th and final question about the death of a famous pirate in 1718. The father of four, who has been married to his wife, Debs, a nurse, for 33 years, became the sixth champion in the ITV programme’s 22-year history.

WATCH the incredible moment Don Fear won a million:

The final question he answered correctly was: “In 1718, which pirate died in battle off the coast of what is now North Carolina?” He said he knew the answer – Blackbeard – because he taught pirates to students at Wakeman School in Shrewsbury, which has since closed and is now home to Shrewsbury Sixth Form College.

The last few months at work were emotional for Don as he wound down to retirement, but they were also among the most challenging.

"That was my hardest ever term, with the masks, social distancing and Zoom lessons," he said.

Other than no longer being in the routine of work, he says his life hasn't changed too much – he's still at the same address in Telford and driving the same car, his beloved Nissan Juke.

Don Fear has retired from teaching since winning Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

But doing some travelling in the future is still on the agenda.

"I would love to do a safari holiday, go to America and go whale watching and to Australia to watch cricket," he says.

One thing that definitely hasn't changed is his love of table tennis and his local club restarts today after more than a year's hiatus, with people urged to pick up a bat and join in.

"I've been playing since the age of about 16," he said.

Donald Fear at Haberdashers' Adams Grammar School in Newport

"They had table tennis at the sixth form I went to and I spent time playing there. In free periods we would play in the corridor.

"In the second year of sixth form we formed a league team and won our division."

Later on, he joined Lilleshall Table Tennis Centre, which meets at the national sports centre, and he is now the chairman.

It has now been registered as a Table Tennis England (TTE) Premier Club and its members have big plans to turn it into a centre for disability sport and attract top table tennis players.

Donald Fear with his beloved Nissan Juke

Don said: "We have also had interest from TTE and the Vetts Society to make Lilleshall their premier venue for regular weekend tournaments and our vice president, Rod Lewis, has been in touch with his old table tennis friends in Asia who are coming to visit Lilleshall with a view to holding residential training camps with the likes of the Chinese national team.

"Initially our main focus will be on the elderly and disabled with bat and chat and table tennis therapy using the latest specialised tables of which Rod has already purchased three. We have custom designed tables for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cerebral palsy."

He says the club is on the lookout for new members of all ages and standards.

"It's a really good sport to play," Don added.

"It keeps a lot of people fit. When you are playing the game you are in this cocoon of concentration. It's a great feeling of release."

WATCH an interview with Don at his home here:

For more information on the club search for Lilleshall Table Tennis Centre on Facebook or call Don on 01952 416048.

The club meets on Mondays from 7pm until around 10pm, although numbers are currently restricted to 26.

People are encouraged to bring hand sanitiser and their own equipment if they have it, but equipment is available to borrow.

Social distancing rules will apply and tables will be wiped down after use.

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