PLYMOUTH darts players were saddened this week to hear of the death of Ray Tucknott after a long battle with cancer.
Spreading over a career on the oche of five decades, Ray played darts in Plymouth for the Swan Inn, Cambridge, Archer Inn, Victoria Inn, Olive Branch and his beloved Boringdon Arms, to name just six.
A lot of current players have their own memories of Ray including Steve Hiscox who played alongside him at the Swan Inn, with team mates Tony Palfrey, Bill Luscombe, Mike Evans and Dave Roberts to name a few.
Steve said that: “Ray was always a real steady player, mainly in team events, doubles and trebles rather than individual performances. I also remember him when he played in the Plymouth City Super League at the Archer Inn in the 1980s and 90s”.
Plymouth darts league secretary Louis Yates recalls what a good player Ray was, but also that he was a “thoroughly nice man” both on and off the oche.
Ray always used to enquire after the health of Fred Goldsmith Snr when he played Fred jnr who also remembers Ray as “a great gentleman, who will be sadly missed”.
Dave Collins recalls him at the Archer Inn playing alongside Steve “Tug” Wilson, Lee Rodmell, John Goves, Tony Tasker and Mike Bulmer and says, “he was a superb anchor man as nothing fazed him”.
Alan Rowe concurs with the previous sentiments when referring to Ray as “a lovely man and absolute gent” which only goes to show that he was well respected and left a lot of positive memories amongst the current Plymouth players.
Ray originated from Seaford near Brighton and served in the Royal Navy until 1988-89. He was based both in Portsmouth/Gosport and Devonport throughout his Naval days, his last “boat” being HMS Osiris, an Oberon-class submarine.
After his retirement from the Royal Navy, Ray made a name for himself undertaking decorative knot work, some of which have been on display at the Plymouth museum, the Victoria Inn Hooe, Boringdon Arms and the Copthorne Hotel.
Many other pubs in the Plymouth area also have his bell ropes and other assorted items.
Ray’s best mate was Richard Johns who is pictured above with Ray prior to the Trafalgar 200 celebrations on the Barbican.
Trafalgar 200 was a series of events held in the United Kingdom in 2005, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and Ray was instrumental in organising the event in Plymouth.
The pair first met in 1986 when Richard was just starting in darts. They also played in the Futurama team that featured in the Devon Super League before both going on to represent Devon in the British Inter County Championships.
Ray had three stints for Devon which started in the 1970s, the second being 1987 to 1991 and then later again in the 1990s.
In the first match of his second period, Devon visited Cambridgeshire in September 1987 and Ray was man of the match for the Devon B side when winning with a 25.84 average.
Richard recalls that back then, Ray used long length nylon stems. “Just as he was being called onto stage to play for Devon against West of England his practice dart bounced out snapping the stem at the base. He asked the kitchen to boil up some water, so he could warm up the barrel and twist the shaft out.
“They heated his dart up causing him a burnt hand. Not sure how he got the stem fixed but he won his match! Believe it or not he had another stem break whilst playing Fred Pritchard in the Plymouth Open in 1989”.
Another tale Richard recalls was when his team, the Old Road Inn, were away at Ray’s team the Cambridge.
“About 10 minutes before the match starts Ray comes running into the pub dressed in full naval uniform and was slightly out of breath. It transpired that the launch that dropped him off at the jetty was being chased by the police boat for speeding up the river. He never did get caught!
“Another “Naval” occasion was a super league match at the Futurama. His submarine had been recommissioned that same day, so he was delayed getting to the darts match.
“So being excused from wearing the correct team strip he simply removed his peaked hat and proceeded to win his darts match 3-0 dressed in full Naval Number 1’s”.
One of the most unusual darts matches took place in December 1973 . . . aboard a British submarine.
The match in aid of charity, was between the crew of HMS Cachalot and a team made up from the Devon Super League.
Up to 30 players and spectators squeezed into the submarine’s torpedo storage compartment to watch the 14 games of 501 which the experienced Devon Super League team won 12-2.
The match was organised by none other than Leading Electrical Mechanic Ray Tucknott.
The Cattewater Cruising Club was formed in 1989 as a result of a group of keen sailors, who kept their boats in the Cattewater nearby Turnchapel, socialising on a regular basis in the Boringdon Arms and realising that the other established Plymouth based Yacht Clubs did not cater for their particular needs.
They decided, therefore, to form their own club and to do their own thing. In order to gauge the level of potential interest, a notice for interested “sailors” was posted on a noticeboard in the Boringdon Arms.
More than 60 names were appended, and Ray became a founder member.
During his time in the “Senior Service” one of Ray’s proudest moments was when he won the Affray Cup in 1974-75 whilst serving in Gosport.
This was a darts trophy named after a submarine which was lost at sea on April 16, 1951, with the loss of 75 lives.
It is fitting that Richard Johns has the last memory of his best mate when he recalls the day he turned up at Ray’s house, and for the first time was wearing glasses.
Passing the time of day over a cup of coffee, Richard enquires: “What’s with the glasses”? Then he got the full story.
Ray was playing at the Archer Inn and Martin Smith was working the electronic score board. Ray steps up to the oche and shoots for a checkout of 167 . . . Treble 20, treble 19, bull.
Ray clenches his first, turns to shake hands with his opponent when Smithy shouts “bust” . . . The scoreboard was actually showing 157!