The popularity of my News of the World,featured more or less monthly in my global Dr. Darts’ Newsletter,seems to grow and grow. This particular post was inspired by one of my subscribers’,Mike Bailey, who wrote to me in October 2017. Mike wrote:
I was hoping you could gather some information for me regarding a darts player I once played.
It was 1977, I think, certainly around that time. I was 17 years old and a pretty good player then… I was practising with my brother at a Golf Club in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, when this chap asked me for a game. It was a close match but I just edged it 2-1. The chap thanked me for the game and told me I had played well. I didn’t think any more about it.
I was approached afterwards by a spectator who asked me if I knew who I’d just beaten. I said I had no idea. The spectator told me it was a man called Lionel Smith, who was a very good player indeed.
Even now, if my kids ask me if I was any good at darts, I always say, “Hey, I once beat Lionel Smith you know.”
I just wanted to ask you if you had any information on Lionel, and did I really beat a very good player that day? Thanks Patrick, reading your DDNs are always the highlight of my week.
To be absolutely honest, I had never heard of Lionel Smith but it wasn’t long before I discovered some information about him in Derek Brown’s The Guinness Book of Darts (Enfield: Guinness Superlatives Ltd., 1981). Brown revealed that Lionel Smith was born on 17th July 1928 and took up darts ‘30 years ago’ (that is, circa 1950) and finally reached one of his ambitions when he was named in the England team for 1981. Lionel was a floor-layer from Lichfield who, at the time Brown was writing, had won more than thirty titles locally and played for the West Midlands. Brown also stated
In [the World Masters in] 1980, there were 189 players with a chance of winning the Masters with its £4001 first prize and its keys to many doors. Eighty of them were the English county qualifiers…They whittled one another down to twelve and then joined the 109 World qualifiers. Four of those Englishmen who had come through the hard way [one of which was] Lionel Smith (West Midlands) …
The Darts World report on the match published in January 1981 (issue No. 98, page 34) shows that Smith made it to the last 32 but does not state who beat him but it was clear he played no further part in that competition: a performance he could be proud of.
More importantly though was the discovery that Lionel Smith was a News of the World Divisional Champion, winning the Midland Counties title at the Standard-Triumph Recreation Club, Tile Hill, Coventry on Monday 20th March 1978. This success led to Smith featuring in the Grand Finals of theNews of the World Darts Championshipheld at the Empire Pool, Wembley, London on 29th April 1978. The programme notes stated as follows:
Lionel Smith, a married man and a very young grandfather, is today representing the Midland Counties. He is a concrete factory foreman and plays for the Royal British Legion Club, Lichfield, Staffordshire. Lionel scored 18 tons on the way to the final game, and we hope he plays as well today – obviously a player worth watching. Lionel received his [Divisional] trophy from Superintendent J. B. Glynn, Coventry Police.
According to a photocopied results sheet inside my copy of that programme, Lionel drew a bye in the first round and thus went through automatically to the quarter-finals where he met Tony Clark (the Wales Divisional Champion who played out of the Kings Head, Moss, Clwyd) who had also had a bye in the first round.
Smith beat Clark 2-0 to progress to the semi-finals. There he met the North of England Divisional champion John Coward(who had also had a bye in the first round) who played out of the White Hart British Legion, Sedburgh, Cumbria. Smith lost to Coward 2-0. Coward then progressed to the grand final where he met and was defeated by Stefan Lord, the Swedish representative.
So, I was very pleased to confirm that, all those years ago, Mike Bailey had indeed beaten a very good darts player.
LIONEL SMITH – FOLLOW-UP
The above article was originally published in my global newsletter in November 2017. By the time the next issue was prepared I had received some feedback.
In reply DDN reader Brian H. contacted me to say
Further to the Lionel Smith article, it was a nice story from Mike Bailey. I never beat anyone as recognised as Lionel but I remember similar feelings of pride when a local hero praised my game against him!
Mike may be interested to note that Lionel also won the prestigious ‘Bronze Bully’ back in the 80s. I caught it recently on one of the Bullseye [a well-known UK TV darts game show] re-runs on Challenge TV but Lionel can be seen on YouTube scoring 365 in 9 darts. Jim Bowen introduces him as ‘Eric Bristow’s grandad’! (Search: Lionel Smith Bullseye).
I forwarded the information on to Mike Bailey who told me
Thanks to Brian. I immediately went to YouTube and watched the Bullseye re-run featuring Lionel Smith. It was fantastic to see him winning the Bronze Bully with a score of 365. I did indeed beat a legend of the game that night, and feel very proud.
The photo above shows Lionel Smith (on the left) in 1978 receiving his Midlands Counties Divisional trophy from Superintendent J. B. Glynne of Coventry Police. (Image © News of the World. Used with permission.)
©2021 Patrick Chaplin
The original version of this article appeared in issues #92 (November 2017) and #93 (December 2017) of my global Dr. Darts’ Newsletter (DDN).
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