‘Jocky Wilson saved my life’: King of Darts remembers the icon

Jocky Wilson and Bobby George, two of the semi-finalists in the Embassy World Professional Dart championship 1982, at Stoke.
Jocky Wilson and Bobby George, two of the semi-finalists in the Embassy World Professional Dart championship 1982, at Stoke.
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“King of Darts” Bobby George has revealed for the first time how his owes his life to the late Scottish darts legend Jocky Wilson.

Wilson, twice crowned darts champion of the world before retiring from the sport and dying a virtual recluse, acted quickly after the Englishman’s spleen ruptured.

George – one of the biggest personalities of 1980s and ’90s TV darts – was sharing a hotel room with Wilson in Newcastle-upon-Tyne during an exhibition tour that also included “The Ton Machine” Alan Glazier.

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He recalled: “I had terrible stomach ache, sweating.

“He said ‘you need a brandy, get that down you’.

“I said ‘I just can’t do it, John’.

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“He said ‘all right’ and he drank it. I said ‘you’d better get some help, there’s something wrong’ and give him his due, he went and got help.

“The doctor came to our room and said ‘you might have picked up something, take these tablets and he went’.

“I was still ill – and when you’re really ill, you know it.

“I said ‘John, I feel like I’m going to peg it here’.

“He done the right thing, went and got Alan Glazier’s girlfriend, and she was a nurse and she called the ambulance and saved my life.”

George had been suffering from a ruptured spleen, which the doctor had missed. He was in hospital five weeks.

George, now aged 73, has recalled the life-saving response for a new BBC documentary about Wilson’s life, having travelled the world with the former fish processor from Kirkcaldy in Fife.

Featuring rare archive footage and told in Wilson’s own words, the programme Jocky Wilson Said traces the bittersweet rise and fall of the cult Scottish sporting hero.

Known for his heavy drinking and unorthodox throwing style, Wilson, who died aged 62 in 2012, played darts at the former Lister Bar in Kirkcaldy while working as a commis chef, fish processor, miner and coalman. He realised he could play for a wider audience in 1979 after he won £500 in a tournament in Butlins, Ayr.

Known for his toothless grin, he became one of the best loved and most recognisable personalities of the ’80s and ’90s. Dubbed the “people’s champion”, he won the World Championships in 1982 and 1989, beating John Lowe and Eric Bristow. He also won the British Open and was Scottish Masters champion three times, but outside of the game he battled alcohol, cigarettes, depression, diabetes and bankruptcy. His last match was at Butlins in Ayr in 1995.

George reveals on the documentary how Wilson, who died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, used to smoke in his sleep.

He said: “I’d be sharing a room with him and I’d have gone to sleep then, shoowt, I’d hear a match striking, then snoring away, then ten minutes later shoowt, another match. He used to smoke 20 fags when he was asleep at night. You couldn’t see the room. It was all cloudy.”

George added: “I knew him, probably, better than anyone in darts. He travelled the world with me.

“He used to take a suitcase with him with nothing in it, but a pair of socks. I couldn’t believe it. I’d say ‘is this your case?’ I’d say ‘is it worth it, to bring a case for a pair of socks?’ He’d say ‘we’ll win some money and buy some clothes over there’.”

Jocky Wilson Said airs tomorrow on BBC One Scotland from 9pm.