New sense of pride for darts ace Jocky Wilson

Jocky Wilson
Jocky Wilson

It seems there’s a re-emerging sense of appreciation and pride, not only among Fifers, but in Scotland as a whole, towards the astonishing sporting achevements of a darts player from Kirkcaldy.

An acclaimed hour-long BBC documentary, broadcast last month, profiling darts legend Jocky Wilson’s incredible rise to stardom, has helped remind the public of those astounding achievements in twice becoming world champion.

Wullie Burness- Kirkcaldy darts player who played alongside Jocky Wilson and was a close personal friend

Wullie Burness- Kirkcaldy darts player who played alongside Jocky Wilson and was a close personal friend

Later this month Kirkcaldy, Jocky’s home town, will also pay tribute to the Lang Toun’s greatest sportsman with an event at the Adam Smith Theatre, featuring the former world champ and fellow Scot, Gary Anderson, to mark 30 years since the man won the second of those two world trophies.

But for those who were close to him, Jocky’s achievements have never been far from the memory.

“It’s Scotland’s greatest sporting achievement, a double world champion – almost unbelievable if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”

That’s the view of fellow Kirkcaldy darts stalwart William ‘Wullie’ Burness who played with and against Jocky during those halcyon days for the sport.

Wullie burness with Jocky Wilson representing Fife in London 1979

Wullie burness with Jocky Wilson representing Fife in London 1979

Wullie witnessed first hand the darts legend’s meteoric rise to stardom, a feat that some 30 years later, he says, is the stuff of fairy tales.

“He certainly was a sporting one-off, and I doubt we’ll ever see the likes of a Jocky Wilson again,” Wullie smiles as he flicks through a batch of old photographs.

“A world champion from Kirkcaldy, not once but twice, that achievement makes him Scotland’s all-time best sportsman in my eyes.”

And Wullie should know.

Still competing across Europe alongside some of today’s big names such as Ross Montgomery, Tony O’Shea, Glen Durrant and Martin Adams, Wullie is a well kent and much respected face in the sport he has played for over 50 years.

And having played alongside and against Jocky in the highly competitive Fife and Scottish amateur ranks back in the 1970s and early 80s, Wullie saw it all.

“Back then every pub and bar had a darts team, and usually a good one too,” Wullie told the Press.

“Fife was a hotbed for darts and Jocky was a product of those local leagues and tournaments where a few pounds could be won, but only if you were good.”

Wullie himself produced a major triumph over Jocky when, in 1977, he beat him in the final of the Fife pubs’ single’s championship.

A feat made all the remarkable for the then 20-year-old Wullie considering within five years, Jocky would be crowned king of the darts world.

“We played together a lot after that, from pub teams such as the Alpha Bar and Lister, and representing Fife and Scotland.

“Some even called us Jocky one and Jocky two as I’d perfected my throwing style to that of Jocky’s famous, if somewhat unorthodox ‘snatched’ approach.

“We had so much fun, they really were great days.”

Looking back at Jocky’s career, Wullie points to a golden period after he won his first world title, beating bookie’s favourite John Lowe in the final.

“Jocky was on fire and among the best in the business for a few years, certainly a match for the biggest names such as Lowe, Eric Bristow, Leighton Rees,” he said.

“But with that came the pressure, not only from a sporting perspective but also away from the oche there were the commercial demands and, of course, the pressure of being a celebrity.

“In 1979 Jocky asked me to be his manager but I was just a kid myself and way too young.

“I often wonder if had I taken him up on his offer if things would have been different. Could I have protected him more from the many that circle around any sport, often offering a too good to be true business advice?”

Wullie is delighted by the success of the BBC documentary which has helped introduce Jocky Wilson to a whole new generation of darts fans and wider public.

“It was largely positive, which is the main thing, and, let’s face it, first and foremost it should be about the phenomenal darts player that Jocky undoubtedly was.

“That will never be forgotten.”

Wullie now connects with fans through the Jocky Wilson Appreciation page on Facebook and has been working closely alongside Jocky Wilson’s family to confirm the whereabouts of the great man’s trophies and secure their return to Kirkcaldy.

“We’ve tracked them down to a darts company that acquired them through a deal with Jocky some years ago and we are in contact with the firm, based in the north east of England, to see if we can buy them or bring them back to put on display in Kirkcaldy.

“I understand, John Lowe has one of the world trophies and Eric Bristow’s is now with a photographer.

“Our aim is to get one back here so the people of Jocky’s home town, and darts fans in general, can view them for the first time in decades. It would be a fitting tribute all these years later.”