Fresh from scooping the Britain’s Got Talent title, Richard Jones has shared a charming story of how his mentor – and former prisoner of war – Fergus Anckorn cheated death using just 50 eggs.
Viewers were won over by Jones’s tale of the 97-year-old soldier, who was held as a POW in a Japanese camp for three years during World War II.
Using a close-up magic card trick Jones, 25, explained how Fergus – who was one of the youngest magicians ever to be welcomed into the prestigious Magic Circle – endured brutal treatment on a “daily basis”. His family back home had thought he was dead after he suffered multiple wounds on the front line. But, as Jones explained during his winning performance, Fergus always used magic to lift spirits and help earn food rewards for his fellow soldiers.
Admitting he was still in “shock” from the win, the victorious magician revealed how Fergus even cheated death with the help of his magic and 50 eggs.
“Whenever the guards used to ask him to do magic he would always try and include food because they had such disrespect for the prisoners that if they were to touch food then the Japanese wouldn’t eat the food,” Jones exclusively told RadioTimes.com. “So he knew if he did magic with an item of food, they’d give it to him afterwards.
“Once, he wanted to do a trick with an egg, so he actually manipulated the system and got fifty eggs. He took them back to his guys and they made a 49-egg omelette. The next day the person in charge found out and said: ‘You were going to do a trick with an egg, where are the other 49?’. The only way he got out of it was he said: ‘I was so nervous about getting it wrong, I’d practiced it 49 times…’ So they spared his life because of that. His guys had a 49-egg omelette, which would have been amazing at that time.”
Jones admitted he’d had the idea of including Fergus in his final performance as soon as he started his BGT auditions. “When I told him he said: ‘That’d be bloody marvellous!’”
“I phoned him a few times after my auditions aired and said ‘What do you think?’” Jones said, having met Fergus when he was first awarded full membership with the Magic Circle three years ago. “He was really chuffed with it. Then I phoned him last week and said: ‘Fergus I think this is actually going to happen, I think we’re actually going on stage together’ and he was really excited.”
In fact, Fergus has had quite the week. Not only has he been on stage in front of the nation, he joined the Queen’s Garden Party and also met the man who liberated his prisoner of war camp while he was collecting an award at the Japanese Embassy.
It’s perhaps no surprise then that, come the final, Jones was most nervous to show Fergus how he was going to tell his amazing story.
“That was probably the most nerve-wracking part of the whole thing, showing him the trick I was going to do,” Jones confessed, ‘torn and restored’ being one of the veteran’s personal favourites. “When I sat down with him and said, ‘this is how I’m going to tell your story’, I was really worried I was going to get it wrong, or not tell it in the best way. But he said: ‘That’s brilliant.’”
Jones was delighted to have not just Fergus, but the biggest band in the British army on stage: The Household Cavalry (of which he belongs). They’d been in training for the Queen’s birthday parade all day ahead of the final and Jones will join them again on Wednesday.
Not that having experience performing in front of the Queen has made him any less nervous for that Royal Variety Performance slot he’s now earned as the BGT champion.
“I’ve seen her many times, but I’ve never seen her up close,” Jones admitted. “I’m a bit nervous because I’m not sure what she thinks of magic. I really hope she likes it. The last thing I want to do after the Royal Variety is shake her hand and her to say: ‘I’m not too into magic.’ I really hope she’s going to say ‘I loved it’.”
Jones isn’t short of fans, though, seeing off stiff competition from runner-up Wayne Woodward and Simon Cowell’s Golden Buzzer act Boogie Storm in the last public vote. Cowell was full of praise backstage, Jones said, and also spent a lot of time with Fergus, who was showing the boss of the panel plenty more magic tricks. Is he attempting to sign the pair up as a double act? “Yeah, that’s probably what he was thinking,” Jones laughed.
The magician also spilled about all the attention he’s had on Twitter since his appearance, revealing a somewhat extravagant offer for a piece of his clothing:
“Someone’s asked for my socks that I wore in the semi-final – they’ve offered me £7,000,” he laughed, saying they were just simple plain black socks. “They’re an old pair as well! I might do a deal with my final ones…”