THERE have been a few successful darting families from Plymouth over the years including The Bishops, who were a tour de force in the 60s and 70s and more recently The Bulls, but in between another with abundant ability were The Bryce family.
Terry and Derek Bryce were successful in various local leagues but the standout family member was undoubtedly Graham.
Graham Bryce had his first experience on a dartboard at the Blue Monkey, playing in the Men’s Courage League in the 1970-71 season, aged 20, after being encouraged to take up the sport by their captain at the time Tommy Griffiths.
It was not long before he realised that he had an aptitude for the game and his prowess was such that just two seasons later, he made the individual final of the Men’s Courage League, which was then the biggest brewery league in the country.
LORDING IT: A young Graham Bryce, back row third from left, who was part of the successful Lord Beresford side in 1983-84 when they won both the Challenge Cup and Johnstone Trophy in the Courage League and repeated the feat the following season.
He lost the final to Frankie Hinds, but young Graham Bryce had arrived on the Plymouth darts scene with earnest.
In 1974, Bryce wanted to test himself with the serious darts players in the city and enquired as to the possibility of joining the established team at The Longroom.
Geoff Gunning was their captain and said to Bryce at the time: “Sorry son, you’re not good enough”.
Practice and dedication followed and just 12 months later Graham Bryce was good enough and he took his place in the side that went on to rank amongst the very best pub teams that ever plied their trade within the Plymouth darts leagues.
In the season of 1976-77, Longroom won the Johnson Trophy, retained it in 1978-79 and in the same season, Bryce and Tommy Griffiths won the league pairs title.
The following season, Longroom were league champions and Bryce again won the doubles crown, but this time playing with Geoff Gunning.
Bryce was also a valued member of the Hyde Park side that won the Devon County Super League and they won through to the national final when the Plymouth side defeated a team from Scotland to with the British Super League title.
In the 1978-79 season, representing The Cambridge, Bryce was individual champion when defeating Ralph Lancaster in the singles final of the Plymouth and District Wednesday League but failed to successfully defend the title the following season when beaten in the final by John Donnison.
In 1980 Graham was the Crownhill representative in the Royal British Legion national championships and although he did not get to the grand finals, he had the distinction of winning the individual RBL titles of Plymouth, Devon and the South West of England.
In the 1980-81 campaign Bryce also played in the Whitbread League representing the Radnor Arms who finished as league champions. On a personal note he was runner-up in the singles but clinched the doubles crown when partnered with Des Stabb.
The following season Radnor won the Atwood Cup in the Whitbread League on a Tuesday, but he could also be found at the Seymour Arms on a Monday, in the Halls League and won the individual title in the 1981-82 campaign.
He was still successful in the Plymouth and District Wednesday League and in 1981-82, The Cambridge won the League and Cup double and Bryce was the individual champion.
FOUR-MIDABLE: The Bryce quartet of Jeff, Terry, Graham and their father Jock, who won the Royal British Royal Legion National Fours Championships.
One of Bryce’s proudest moments came in 1982 when, with his dad Jock and brothers Jeff and Terry, the quartet entered the Royal British Legion National Fours darts championship.
Playing out of the Crownhill RBL, they progressed from winners of the Plymouth area to Devon champions and won through to the national finals as representatives of the South West of England.
They had arrived at the finals, which took place at Richmond RBL, dropping just two legs from the best of three legs of 1001 format before going on to becoming national champions.
The following season, Bryce was playing Devon Super League for Futurama when the team finished as runners-up and in the same campaign on a Monday, Seymour Arms won the league title and the knockout cup.
In the season of 1983-84, Bryce was a leading player in the Lord Beresford side that won the treble of that campaign, which consisted of the league title, Johnstone Trophy and Challenge Cup.
At the finals and presentation night, which took place in the grand surroundings of Plymouth Guildhall, they competed in the final of the Johnstone Trophy final with a format of three doubles of 701 and four singles of one leg of 501.
Beresford opened up a 3-0 lead which included a pair’s win for Bryce and his partner Timmy Green with Green hitting the highest outshot of the night in that win with a kill of 114. The Devonport side went on defeat the Cherry Tree 4-1 for whom John Moreno took their only point.
In the final of the Challenge Cup, the Beresford’s opponents were the Foxhunter, a team that were originally at the Fellowship, under the captaincy of Dave Ford and they were defeated 5-3.
Lord Beresford also provided the two individual finalists of that season when Dave Smith defeated Des Stabb in two straight legs.
Beresford were league runners up in 1984-85 and won the Challenge Cup again before Graham moved back to the Seymour in 1985-86 and on his first year back, the Seymour were league champions.
Bryce was also winning trophies on a Tuesday but was now playing at the Olive Branch and in the 1985-86 campaign, they won the league title and Knockout Cup and followed it up the next season when winning the treble, consisting of the league championship, Knockout Cup and Attwood Cup.
In May of 1987, Bryce won the doubles title with Mike Evans while playing for the Olive Branch in the Plymouth City Super League which had a much different format from the one that is now used.
Bryce was back in the Courage League playing for the No Place in the 1992-93 campaign and the team were promoted as division C champions, but the following season Tommy Griffiths was to be influential on Bryce’s darting career once again.
Griffiths got together teams that rivalled the best Plymouth had to offer and for 12 years they were virtually unbeatable.
From 1993 through to 2005 Bryce played for Griffiths on a Monday at the Trelawny, Victory Inn and Fellowship and during that time they won the Bass Open League, John Smiths, Bookers and Trophydart Leagues and the Plymouth Open League.
It was no different on a Friday and playing at both the Fellowship Inn and Victory Inn they were champions of the Plymouth and District Friday League on numerous occasions before moving to the Plymouth City Super League where more success followed.
To name just one, in the season of 1997-98 the Victory Inn, playing in the John Smiths League (previously Courage) won the league title, Challenge Cup and Johnstone Trophy and Bryce and John Goves were also presented with a special award for hitting a 12-dart doubles leg.
On the demise of the Victory Inn, Graham played for several more sides, The Windmill being one of them, but as a self-employed businessman, darts could not now be such a priority and a resounding career on the oche’s of Plymouth took a downturn.
As recently as this season though, he was playing for Porters in the Plymouth City Super League but has now finally called it a day.
IMPRESSIVE: The impressive pose of Graham Bryce that brought him and his many darts teams a mountain of success throughout the years.
Whenever possible, Bryce still likes to attend various darts fixtures around the city and takes much enjoyment from watching the next generation.
One of Graham’s claims to fame is that he taught the game to one of Plymouth’s most successful lady darts players.
Graham and his wife were friends with Joe and Evelyn Fulton and at the time Evelyn had never thrown a dart in her life, but watching Graham play at various times, decided she wanted to also play.
Bryce showed her the rudiments of the game, like how to hold the dart, where to stand on the oche etc, but as in most cases of very successful players, she had natural ability.
Evelyn, who later reverted to her maiden name of Torbet, played for many years in the very successful team at the Mechanics Arms that won the Ladies’ Independent league title year on year and Evelyn herself won a handful of individual titles.
She was also successful in the Les Best Wednesday League playing alongside the likes of Bobby Hillon and Bill Darlington at The Ferryboat Inn who were league winners on more than one occasion.
Evelyn was picked to represent Devon in the 1988/89 campaign and although only playing nine times, had a 75%-win ratio with six victories.
In the very first Champion of Champions, contested in 1985, she put none other than Cliff “Ticker” Inglis out of the competition before reaching the last 16.
Graham takes much pride in telling the story of Evelyn’s initiation into the game and rightly so.
In a distinguished career on the dartboards of Plymouth, Graham has played for more than 30 pub or club teams but rather than reel off an exhaustive list, I will finish, for nostalgic purposes, with the ones that no longer remain.
They are: The Blue Monkey, Longroom, The Cambridge, Radnor Arms, New Pier Inn, Duke of Somerset, No Place Inn, Fellowship Inn, The Trelawny, Victory Inn, Wolsdon Arms, Olive Branch, Hill Park, Mechanics Arms and last, but not least, the Dog and Duck.