Play about Jocky Wilson set to hit the stage

Jocky Wilson in Kirkcaldy with the Embassy Darts World Championship trophy in 1982
Jocky Wilson in Kirkcaldy with the Embassy Darts World Championship trophy in 1982

The life of one of Kirkcaldy’s greatest sporting heroes is to be the subject of a new play, as darts legend Jocky Wilson will be portrayed on stage.

He was one of Scotland’s most unlikely heroes, but he was twice crowned world champion before ending up a virtual recluse.

The late darts legend’s life will be explored in Jocky Wilson Said, a play featuring at Glasgow venue Oran Mor’, as part of its A Play, A Pie and A Pint series.

The play recalls an infamous incident in 1979 when the then 29-year-old was travelling around the United States playing exhibition matches. He stayed up so late in Los Angeles that he was forced to hitch 400 miles through the desert to Las Vegas after missing his bus.

Jocky’s meteoric rise to fame came in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he became one of the world’s top darts players at a point when millions would tune in to watch the big matches on TV

The show – set before Wilson became a household name – is being created by two siblings from Fife, Jane Livingstone and Jonathan Cairney.

An unusual choice for a play, Jane told the Press what inpsired them to write Jocky Wilson Said.

“We’re from Fife originally, so we’ve always been aware of Jocky Wilson.

“My brother was walking down the street and he saw that someone had put up a poster which had Jocky Wilson’s picture on it. He thought ‘great’, and walked across.

“It turned out to be just an advert for a darts event somewhere.

“It didn’t really have anything to do with Jocky Wilson, but his picture had just been used as a general image. My brother was disappointed as he thought someone had written a play about Jocky, but it got him thinking that maybe someone should do it.”

Jocky honed his talents playing in Kirkcaldy pubs like the Lister, which was on Lauder Road.

“I think the play is very accessible,’’ she said. ‘‘I hope it motivates people to come to the theatre who wouldn’t normally go.

“Most people were very warm towards him but there were some people who weren’t so keen, due to the drinking and things like that. We think of him as a tremendous character, but because there are these differing views about him it made us think that his was a story worth looking at.

“But I think it’s a very warm and positive interpretation of him.

“He travelled all around the world to play. But in America he missed his lift, as he occasionally did, and had to hitch-hike to the next match in Nevada.”

It was soon afterwards that his career began to take off.

“We did a lot of research on him beforehand,’’ she said. “A lot of information about him is in the public domain, but we also talked to people who knew him and who played with him to make sure we got it right.

“As a result it is our interpretation of him.

“We’ve had an amazing response.

“I think it show just the level of interest in the man – I’m susprised there hasn’t been something done before now.

The play takes its name from a notorious incident on Top of the Pops in 1982, when Jocky had become an overnight sensation. Such was his fame that Top of the Pops used a picture of Jocky during Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ rendition of their hit Jackie Wilson Said. Whether it was due to a mix-up or a geniune joke has now been lost to urban myth.

But by then Jocky, one of Scotland’s most popular sportsmen of the time, was seen by many as a national hero – and Jane feels his unique appeal was down to his ‘everyman’ demeanour.

“The thing about Jocky was that he was hugely talented at something that took a lot of skill.

“I think his appeal among the public was due to the juxtaposition of being very successful but being very unpretensious. He was successful but very relateable to ordinary everyday people.”

And while some may have found it a challenge to bring such an unusual hero to the stage, Jane says being from the Kingdom made it all the easier.

“Being from the area, I’ve always been interested in Fife. I think it’s under-represented on stage.”

And are there any plans to bring the play to Fife?

“I’d love that,” added Jane. “The play was comissioned by ‘A Play A Pie And a Pint’, but if anyone else was interested, I’d love to put it on in Fife.”

After retiring from darts in 1995 he retreated from public life. Jocky was said to have battled alcohol and health problems and and refused all requests to speak about his time in the limelight.

Jocky Wilson Said will premiere at Oran Mor on March 20.

Local hero who made it to the top

Born in Kirkcaldy in 1950, Jocky Wilson served in the British Army, worked in a fish processing plant, delivered coal and was also a miner.

But he was unemployed in 1979 when he entered a darts competition at Butlin’s, in Ayr, won the first prize of £500 and decided to turn professional.

Within months he was taking part in the World Championships and three years later won the tournament – a feat he repeated in 1989.

He died in 2012, with a well-attended service at Kirkcaldy Crematorium.