The Poet Laureate of Darts
During the 1960s, when the world’s attention was yet to be turned to darts in a big way and Eric Bristow was eleven years old, Noel Egbert Williamson published the first book on the sport to be produced in the UK for nearly two decades.
The book, simply entitled Darts, was published by Elliot Right Way in Surrey, England and sold for 3s 6d – that’s the equivalent of 18p today. The book remains a key source for anyone wanting to learn or write about the early history of our sport and its organisation – and it has some humour too – and some poems.
I first met Noel in March 1999 and we had kept in regular contact ever since. I last spoke to him late in 2003. Up until that first meeting I was familiar with his book and with his darts poems and (over 200) darts word games published in Darts World over a period of many years, but, until then, I didn’t know the man himself.
I found Noel to be a kind, quiet and generous man, giving willingly of his time and knowledge to aid my research into the sport he loved. He was a man who loved his family and treasured his friends. Dart players he particularly admired were Joe Hitchcock and Phil Taylor, “Both brilliant,” he told me, “I can’t split them, so put them in any order you like.” He also admired John Lowe “at his peak” and Ray Barneveld.
Noel had played for the Hertford Super League in the late 1970s/early 1980s, then captained by Bob Pearman. His darts were 28 grm Unicorn ‘Grippers’. Noel clearly had a passion for darts. The game was a massive part of his life. At one time he even promoted himself as a ‘Darts Instructor’ and had a few clients, including one from the Midlands.
Even when Noel gave up playing – although he did have a dartboard hung in his lounge – he kept an eye on what was going on through regular reports in the local paper. When his eyesight began to fail he continued to play. I recall Noel telling me that his eyes made the board “look a bit wobbly”, but that did not prevent him from still winning matches at his local club.
Although we spoke often on the phone, I will always regret not finding more time to sit down with Noel and enjoy more conversations with him about our join passion for darts and – oh yes – the huge doorstep sandwiches that Phyllis made for us.
Noel died in January 2004.
Over and above his book, Noel will be remembered as ‘the Poet Laureate of Darts’, an epithet given to him by Tony Wood, Editor of Darts World magazine back in the early 1970s. However, I realise that many thousands of darts enthusiasts across the world may never have heard of Noel’s reputation as a poet, so I am pleased to be able to reproduce just a few of the many hundreds of darts poems that he wrote during his lifetime.
Permission has been granted to me by Noel’s widow Phyllis to publish a short selection of Noel’s poems, the copyright for which remains with Noel’s family.
© Patrick Chaplin 2007