Dr. Eddie Norman on WINMAU's 70. Anniversary
Following the article in last month's DDN regarding the WINMAU Dartboard Co. Ltd., celebrating their 70th Anniversary this year, the company received the following e-mail from global darts ambassador, lecturer and former owner of The House of Darts, Dr. Eddie Norman in which he recalls his own working association with the company. What Eddie has to say will be of interest to anyone who wishes to learn more about the history of the darts industry.
Many Congratulations on Winmau reaching their historic Platinum Anniversary.
Reading the amazing and very professional Winmau story written by Ian Flack with help from Dr. Darts in Patrick's latest DDN. I would like to give you some personal thoughts on my experiences with Nodor/Winmau over the many years that I have dealt with the two great firms.
On my travels and at Question and Answer time at the end of my lectures, I am amazed how darts people like to find out more about the 'behind scenes' and history of British darts firms and the people who have been behind their success with starting the firms.
Questions on the players in darts are very rarely asked of me, as people realise what more can be said about players like Phil Taylor, Michael Van Gerwen and Raymond Van Barneveld that is not already known.
Every darts magazine includes the same players, hence the popularity of Patrick's DDN that goes down a different route. The same players month after month was without doubt the main cause of the decline of Darts World and other darts magazines, people are fed up with the same revamped stories of the same players.
Some of the lesser known darts players that are signed up by darts firms are rarely known outside their own country. For example, in comparison, if one was asked in the UK who were Tony Bryant, Alfred Morriss and Dez Bryant, who would know that they are the well-known superstars of The Dallas Cowboys famous across the USA but unknown outside?
I have found that people want to know more about the darts businessmen and writers behind the masks who run darts firms, like "Who is Patrick Chaplin?", "Who designs the latest dartboards and where do their ideas come from?" and "Which is the oldest darts firm?" The history of darts still plays an important part of question time.
People and players are thirsty for darts knowledge and for much of this darts can thank Patrick.
I now incorporate a talk in my lectures on John and Dave, Tom Pope, Frank Lowy, Eric Beard and Harry Kicks to name but a few great British darts names and my personal experiences in dealing with some of those people. These go down well and people then ask for more and where can they read about these great founders of darts. The answer is nowhere as all firms concentrate on players only.
I will on this great Platinum anniversary of yours recall some of my dealings with the great Nodor and Winmau firm(s). It has always been a pleasure to do so.
I first met Harry Kicks (of Kicks Brothers, later WINMAU) (with Olly Croft) in 1972 when I met up with him to discuss the possibility of Winmau sponsoring a new joint venture being planned by us to be called 'The British Darts Organisation'.
The meeting was at the T.L. and R Club in Tottenham, London where London (Olly's team) were playing The West of England (my team) in a county match; a precursor to the forming of the BDO in January 1973.
Harry came with his wife Winnie and, very suitably impressed, agreed to sponsor the BDO.
Olly had previously driven to Bedwas (in Wales) to ask Nodor to sponsor the BDO but unfortunately no one was available to see him so Winmau filled the gap and the rest is darts history.
Harry and I took to each other. and whenever I rang Winmau, my calls were always diverted to Harry no matter how busy he was and vice versa if he rang me on my private House of Darts line. We had a great relationship, as indeed I also had with Geoff and Harry Kicks Jnr.
My connections with Nodor go right back to 1962. The firm was always great to me, I have great recollections of dealing there with Harpo and Gill Wooten and many others. When I made my first visit to Bedwas the workshop had individual metal cabinets obviously ex-army where the workers hung their coats. In fact it resembled an army barracks.
When I went into the factory, I heard someone say, "Close the doors of the cabinets", the reason being because there were Page 3 Girl's pictures inside the doors, and 'important visitors' like myself could be offended. Today those same or similar photos or worse can be found on darts flights. How times have changed!
Dave Scillitoe became top man at Nodor, a giant of a man bigger than Tom Fleetwood and at least 22 stone. Then came John and Dave Bluck. We loved them at The House of Darts. My lunches with them were immortal and insane, from two to four hours duration.
I caught up day with John (and Jack Price) by chance in New York one day where he was visiting Bob McCloud of Darts Unlimited who had an office at 516 Fifth Avenue. I was there to run the Annual US Open for Bob and the winner represented the USA at the News of The World in London. Bob had a private plane and wanted to fly us over the Big Apple after a nights drinking, but we all politely refused.
The evening before the US Open we met for dinner on West Main Street, Bay Shore, Long Island with a friend of mine who ran K-bar-K darts and ended up crawling back to our hotels at 5 a.m. We were just chatting about darts and Bob and John saying they could make me the greatest player ever. Then they saw me play and the subject was dropped, never to be discussed again.
Harpo. What can one say about the fabulous guy? What a credit to Nodor. He delivered dartboards to us, but could not switch off the engine in that famous Nodor red lorry as he was worried it would stall and we would never get it started again.
One day he arrived and the fumes from that diesel lorry had people waiting at the nearby bus stop moving away from the black smoke emanating from the lorry.If you have ever been to Beijing in the smog you will know the feeling.
Harpo also brought over in the back of the lorry, the pigeons belonging to Wayne Eckman, which he would release in Bristol and they would fly back to Wales.
In emergency, whilst awaiting a delivery, my wife started collecting dartboards for us from Bedwas in her Mercedes sports. We first told her to collect only thirty but then rang Nodor unbeknown to say could they try to get eighty in, which they did. My wife used to come back and say they had put eighty in again. We told her we would complain.in the end she gave up as Nodor got a new 'smokeless' lorry.
Another experience for us was Jack Russell of Boston purchased a complete container of Nodor dartboards. All was well but the ship went down in the English Channel and all the dartboards were lost. Luckily Jack had his own insurance.
At the House of Darts we had three rooms devoted to darts relics - Not me! - that visitors loved and many spent a couple of hours there. John and Dave visited several times. One day John said to me, "Eddie, that Par Golf Board, did we make it?" I said "Yes", and he asked me what the rules were. I told him there were no rules as Nodor did not have any but that I had written some. He was fascinated by this fact. Such a great businessman but a little thing like that he thought was amazing. (It had taken me just an hour to write the rules.)
I could reminisce on my Nodor and Winmau memories for hours but in truth all I wanted to do was congratulate you all at Winmau on your Platinum anniversary.
Kindest regards to you all on this wonderful achievement in business
I am grateful to Eddie and all concerned for allowing me to reproduce his e-mail which gives such an interesting insight into the history not only of WINMAU but also NODOR International. Without such memories written down this history would undoubtedly be otherwise lost.
With kind permission of Dr. Eddie Norman, Dr. Patrick Chaplin and Winmau - DDN 72