He was one of Scotland’s most unlikely sporting heroes – who was twice crowned world champion but ended up a virtual recluse. Now the late Jocky Wilson, the Fife-born darts favourite who won the hearts of millions of viewers but had a long battle against alcohol problems, has inspired a new stage show.
The play will be staged exactly five years after the death of Wilson, who retired from the sport in 1995 and was rarely seen in public again.
To be premiered at the Oran Mor arts centre in Glasgow, Jocky Wilson Says will recall an infamous incident 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.
The show – set before Wilson became a household name – is being created by two siblings from Fife – writer Jane Livingstone and singer-songwriter Jonathan Cairney, although it does not feature any music.
Born in Kirkcaldy in 1950, 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. However, after retiring from the game in December 1995 he retreated from public life and virtually refused to speak about his time in the limelight. He died in 2012.
Ms Livingstone said yesterday: “There was literally a time when everybody in Scotland would have known Jocky Wilson’s name, but they possibly wouldn’t have been able to tell you much about where he was from, what his background was like and what motivated him.
“There are very differing views about Jocky Wilson. Some people get very excited about him and think of him as a great Scottish hero. Other people feel his story is very sad and see him as an embarrassing figure. 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.
“I think the fact we’re from Fife means there’s definitely a lot of empathy and understanding of that type of character. We see him having made the most of his abilities to make the most of his life. We don’t see it as a tragic story.
“We’ve done quite a number of interviews with people who played darts with Jocky in Fife. We had an idea of how we wanted to present a story and what we wanted to say about him.
“We wanted to run that by some people who actually knew him at the time so we’re not that far off. It’s neither going to be demonising or over-romanticising him.”
Morag Fullerton, co-artistic director at Oran Mor, where Jocky Wilson Says will premiere on 20 March, said: “I was just really intrigued by the setting of the play in the desert and the fact it is based on a real-life incident.
“We’re going to hopefully evoke his spirit of his character, tell some of the stories about him, and look at what it was that made him such a winner and a loser.”