John Thomas ‘Jocky’ Wilson is one of Scotland’s most celebrated darts players. He was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife on March 2nd 1950 and, despite his humble beginnings, rose to become a player of considerable skill and talent – a veritable rival to some of the sport’s greatest heroes including the likes of Eric Bristow and Bob Armstrong.
He won the British Darts Organisation (BDO) Championship on two different occasions during the 1980s. Wilson retired from the sport in 1995 and, in recent years, has increasingly suffered from poor health and has become notorious for his alcoholism.
Wilson’s entry into darts was the result of unfortunate circumstances. He spent much of his early life as a miner, working in Kircaldy’s Sealife Coalfield. However, unemployment soon left Jocky in dire straits. Whilst on the dole, he decided to try his hand at darts, entering and winning a local competition.
This was to serve as the catalyst for his career. During the next few years, Wilson participated in a number of county championships. His success meant that it was not long before he was selected to represent the UK at the international level. Like his contemporaries, Wilson benefited from the fact that he had chosen to enter the sport at a time when it had begun receiving more television coverage than ever before.
Wilson has won numerous accolades during his time as a professional darts player. However, he appeared to perform at his best during World Championships. He recorded his first World Championship win in 1982.
His most famous victory arguably came in 1989 though, when he claimed the title after an epic match with one of his principal rivals, Eric Bristow. Alongside this remarkable success came victories in the British Open in 1982 and the Finnish Open in 1986.
Like many other professional darts players, Wilson later joined the BDO’s rival – the Professional Darts Championship (PDC) – in 1993. However, he experienced little success during his short association with organisation – worsening alcoholism rather than any lack of talent being the main reason.
Jocky Wilson has always been regarded as one of the most popular darts players of his generation and a favourite of fans everywhere. However, Wilson has been the subject of considerable controversy during his lifetime. Such controversy has been aroused not merely by his exploits as a darts player but also by his actions outside the sport.
In 1982, Jocky was involved in a notorious brawl with an official during the World Championships. The circumstances surrounding these events are unclear. However, it was believed that Wilson had been subject to considerable pressure due to the nationality of his wife, Malvina, who was an Argentinean.
These events occurred at the height of the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina, and Malvina’s nationality made Jocky Wilson deeply unpopular with portions of his traditional fan base. Wilson was temporarily suspended as a result of this incident.
Jocky was also known for his strange personal antics. He adopted the rather disgusting habit of not brushing his teeth, arguing that this was because his grandmother had told him that the ‘English poison their water.’ By the age of 28, he had lost all his teeth. Nevertheless, he refused to wear dentures, to the disgust of many.
Remarkably, Jocky also dabbled in pop music. However, the one record he produced was an unqualified disaster, selling a mere 850 copies. Wilson also was one of the first sports personalities to have a computer game emblazoned with his name. Jocky Wilson’s Darts Challenge first came out in 1988 and proved popular with young darts fans.
Retirement and After
Jocky Wilson effectively retired from the darts world in 1995. Though he never officially announced his retirement, little was seen of him after the 1995 Matchplay Championships.
A heavy drinker, he had begun to suffer from ill health and returned to his native Kirkcaldy. He was soon declared bankrupt and, despite having gained international fame less than a decade earlier, he was forced to move back to the council estate where he had grown up.
However, Wilson does not appear to be one to accept sympathy, acknowledging full responsibility for his alcohol abuse and financial woes: ‘I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me,’ he stated, ‘There’s only one person responsible for the situation I’m in and that’s me.’
Sadly, despite his success during the 1980s, it is likely that Jocky Wilson will be remembered as much for his personal problems as he will be for his success within darts – an unfortunate end to what would otherwise have been a long and successful career.