When The Indoor League, a television programme based around pub games, was launched in Britain on Yorkshire Television (YTV) in 1972 it brought to prominence TV broadcaster Dave Lanning and began the darts career on television of Sid Waddell. In its second season the programme also brought the darts world’s attention to Cornwall’s top ladies darts player at that time, Loveday King, when she became the first winner of the Ladies’ darts title.
This is Loveday’s story.
Loveday King was born on 8th September 1935 at Lower Woodley, near Lanivet, Cornwall. Her parents were Vivienne and John Carter. Her father was a mason and eventually, in addition to Loveday, he and Vivienne had six other daughters and two sons. In the early 1950s Loveday married the love of her life Tommy King and together they had two daughters, Patricia and Lorraine, and one son, Mark.
When interviewed by me back in 2011 Loveday told me that in 1952, “Tommy got me into darts”. Numerous local successes in darts tournaments followed but one particular event that sprang to her mind was victory in the Newquay and District Darts League Ladies’ Doubles in 1968 in which she was partnered by her sister Pauline. In the early 1970s Loveday became the Cornwall Ladies’ darts champion. That performance was noticed by Charlie Burden, Chairman of the National Darts Association of Great Britain (NDAGB), who put her name forward for The Indoor League as Cornwall’s ladies representative.
Next thing, Loveday found herself in front of the cameras and made her way to the final of the Ladies’ tournament where she beat Doncaster’s Jessie ‘Javelin’ Catterick to win the title. Loveday told me, “It was wonderful. I was a complete unknown yet beat some of the top lady players in England.” She also recalled how well all the competitors were treated by the Indoor League team of Sid, Dave and the host, England’s cricket star Freddie Trueman. Loveday added, “When I received my gold medal [which she still has in her possession] for winning The Indoor League from Freddie Trueman he had a job to say my name so we had to have a re-run.”
Sid Waddell was to later write in the book The Indoor League (London: Pan Books, 1975) that Loveday was ‘feared by many men in Cornwall.’ Was that true? Loveday said, “Yes” and then added, “No man likes being beaten by a woman.” That is as true today as it ever was.
In December 1973 brought another TV appearance when Loveday became the first woman darts player to be featured in the TV Times Xmas Darts Spectacular. She recalled, “In it I played a celebrities match with Cliff Inglis [Cliff was later to become the first World Masters title holder]. Cliff played with four-inch nails and we won a cheque for £500 for our chosen charities.”
In early 1974 Loveday, who threw heavy, 26grm darts, was picked to play for her county, Cornwall. She told me, “I always wore 2 ¼ inch heeled shoes so I was the same height to the board.” Her favourite double was double 16. Her career in county darts lasted until about 1990 but before she gave up darts Loveday recorded some exceptional darting moments. Later in 1974 Loveday and Wadebridge’s John Moon won the Cornwall County Darts Association’s Mixed Pairs title at the Mount Charles’ Social Club, St. Austell. Loveday described John as ‘a real nice gentleman’.
In 1978 Loveday partnered her husband Tom to victory in the Cornwall Mixed Doubles at the Cavalier Club, Newquay. She told me, “Twenty-eight pairs entered and Tom and I won. One of my finishes was 151 out, treble 20, treble 17, double 20.” That same evening but at a different venue their son Mark won the Cornwall Youth title. Loveday said, “Tom and I were upset that we were not there to support him but we were very proud of him.”
On 12th November 1978 Loveday played her first game for England in a home international organised by the NDAGB against the ‘auld enemy’ Scotland at Morecambe in Lancashire. England’s men won the tournament but unfortunately I could find no trace of the ladies’ individual match scores in Darts World. However, Loveday recalled, “I was last on and the score was 2-2. I played a great game, scoring 180, winning 2-0 and winning the match for England.” A standing ovation followed. Loveday added, “The four other ladies in the England team could not believe I could go on stage only having had a cup of tea! They were all on gin, vodka, etc.” Loveday declared that playing for her country was the highlight of her darting career, even more special than winning the British Gold Cup.
This happened in November 1981 at Jollees cabaret nightclub in Stoke-on-Trent. Things started exceptionally well for Loveday as she knocked out the post-match favourite Maureen Flowers and then went on to win the title beating Avon’s Jean Smith 3-2 in the final.
Loveday, who felt ‘over the moon’ at winning the prestigious title, told me, “It was a very tough match and Jean was a very strong competitor but she did not like losing to me.” Darts World described Jean’s challenge in the final as ‘a fiery performance’. Her prize for winning the British Gold Cup was a cheque for £500. So what did she spend the money on? Loveday told me, “Tom and I bought a telephone with some of the money. We never had one before.” The victory also saw Loveday on the front cover of the December 1981 issue of Darts World along with the Men’s champion, Wales’ Tony Skuse.
Loveday played for her county for 16 years and then after 1990 she played on a casual basis in Tom’s Wadebridge ‘Dry League’, a local league formed in 1945/46 so that youngsters could also participate in the game without the temptation of alcohol. However, as the first decade of the new millennium drew to a close Loveday had a hip and knee replacement which effectively put paid to any further darting activities.
Looking back over a darts lifetime that spanned nearly 60 years Loveday recalled the players she most admired, John Lowe, Jocky Wilson, Alan Evans and Bob Anderson, the latter about whom she told me, “Bob comes to Wadebridge to play darts. I know him very well.” And Bob know her too. He told me recently, “Loveday is a very lovely lady. It could be argued that Loveday was the first real superstar of ladies darts.” (The image shows Bob with Loveday. (© Bob and Sally Anderson. Used with permission.)
On her record I think I would agree with Bob. Loveday never went full-time professional. Back then, as now, few ladies could make darts a career.
Loveday and Tom were very family oriented and in addition to their own children she has six grand children and two great-grandchildren. In June 2010 Loveday’s husband and life partner Tom died suddenly.
Although a sad ending to my interview it had been a pleasure for me to be able to record Loveday’s story; the first superstar of ladies’ darts.
© Patrick Chaplin 2010-11. Updated 2019