Former world darts champion Jocky Wilson dies at age 62

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scottish darts player and former world champion Jocky Wilson died last night, two days after turning 62. He had been suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung ailment, and police attributed his death to medical causes.

Cquote1.svg It was a shame he wasn't involved in darts anymore because he was such a hero. Cquote2.svg

—Raymond van Barneveld

Born John Thomas Wilson in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Wilson worked locally as a miner, at a bar, and in a fish processing factory before becoming a professional darts player in 1979. Three years later he won the World Championships, repeating that accomplishment in 1989.

Wilson turned to darts after winning £500 at a tournament in 1979, enough to eliminate his right to state unemployment benefits, and was a highly ranked player by the start of 1980. Between 1979 and 1991 he never failed to reach at least the quarter-finals of every world championship, retiring in 1995. He was the first Scottish world champion.

Each world championship victory came against a great rival, the first over John Lowe and the second against Eric Bristow. Bristow was five sets to nil down with six needed to win, but fought back to a tight conclusion. Wilson also had victories in the Finland Open, Scottish Masters, and British Open tournaments.

Cquote1.svg It's a very sad day because Jocky was loved by so many people for the great character he was. Cquote2.svg

—Tommy Cox

Toothless for decades, Wilson also suffered diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. He grew famous not just for darts but also for drink: he narrowly lost one match and then fell off the stage before victor Dave Whitcombe could shake his hand. He was later banned from darts and bankrupted when he left the British Darts Organisation to join the new, breakaway World Darts Council, triggering legal battles.

Following his retirement he became reclusive, living in a small flat in Kirkcaldy and rarely being seen in public; voted into the Darts Hall of Fame in 1996 it took two years before he was found to present his commemorative plaque. "It's a sad day for darts", remarked Raymond van Barneveld, who has won the championship five times. "It was a shame he wasn't involved in darts anymore because he was such a hero." Wilson opted to live on state benefits after retiring instead of playing darts despite offers of good money.

"It's very sad news... He was such a good laugh to be with. People talk about the great characters in darts and he's one of the greatest", remarked Phil Taylor, who has won fifteen world titles. "Jocky transcended the whole spectrum of life in the UK", said Wilson's ex-manager Tommy Cox. "It's a very sad day because Jocky was loved by so many people for the great character he was."

A minute's applause was held at today's UK Open Qualifier in his memory, with officials and 194 players joining in. He leaves a wife and three children.