ONE MAN AND HIS DARTS MUSEUM
In the September 2005 issue of Darts World I suggested that the time was now right for the establishment of a darts museum in the UK to celebrate the history and heritage of the greatest of sports. Despite no formal replies being published in the magazine, I did receive two personal responses to the idea.
One respondent, who was involved in the early days of the British Darts Organisation, confided that he had suggested the setting up of a museum in the mid-1970s but that the idea had been turned down on account of cost – at that time estimated at £3,000.
The second was like the Frenchman replying to King Arthur from the top of the battlements in Monty Python’s film ‘The Holy Grail’; a letter from deepest Suffolk announcing “We’ve already got one!” The letter was from Suffolk-born Patrick Dee. Eager to learn more and view the collection I journeyed forth to interview him and see the ‘museum’ for myself.
Patrick Dee, 55, has spent the last 10 years collecting darting memorabilia. His passion for darts began in Bildeston, Suffolk when he was 13 years old. Patrick told me, “Two ladies who ran the pub, The Kings Head, saw me hanging about aimlessly at the top of Market Hill with nothing to do and they, literally, took me off the street and to the pub where I was asked to come in, sit in a corner and watch the old boys playing darts.”
From that time Patrick was hooked and for the next 30 years or more played in numerous leagues and competitions and has a cabinet or two packed with trophies to prove his success and skill at the game. He even married Ann, another enthusiastic darter. All seemed well for Patrick but in 1991 disaster struck. An accident at work occasioned a serious back injury which brought a stop to his darts playing and also to his working life.
In 1995 Patrick decided that, despite his predicament, he must have an interest and he turned to collecting darts memorabilia. Patrick said, “It seemed the most natural thing to do.” Soon the collection had grown so large that, about five years ago, Patrick had a free-standing brick building constructed in the garden at his home near Woodbridge to house his darts memorabilia.
As you approach the building the first indications of what lies within are revealed; a dartboard hung on the wall outside together with a mock car number plate DEE 180. Once inside the scene is of a darters Santa’s Grotto – everything you can imagine from dartboards (including one made entirely out of matchsticks!) to darts, from flights to books, from signed posters (including Eric Bristow and Maureen Flowers and Keith Deller) to programmes and from ties and cufflinks to cups, mugs and badges. The hundreds of flights and stems pinned to the ceiling make an incredible effect in the right light.
Ten years on from that first purchase of a piece of memorabilia, a set of French wooden feather-flights darts, Patrick is still accumulating more. Patrick told me, “I collect most of the memorabilia from second-hand and junk shops, from antique dealers and from boot fairs. Also my family and friends keep an eye out for me too and often present me with odd items for my collection.” When asked what his favourite piece of memorabilia was Patrick immediately responded, “The pressed paper double-sided dartboard and surround that was given to me four years ago by the landlady of The Ship at Blaxhall.”
Despite no longer playing darts Patrick remains involved with the sport and is currently on the executive committee of at least two local darts leagues and regularly ‘pegs’ (takes chalks) at matches. Patrick said, “When I attend those meetings I always ensure that I am wearing a darts tie, belt-buckle and tie pin.” He has an extensive choice as he has numerous examples of each in his collection.
Although Patrick was the only collector to contact Darts World about the museum piece, there must be similar enthusiasts out there with similar or possibly even larger collections. If you would like to share details with visitors to this website and even possibly readers of Darts World, please contact me via my Contacts Page.
© 2006 Patrick Chaplin
(The original version of this article appeared in the January 2006 issue of Darts World magazine.)