Have a ball with world snooker champ Dennis Taylor at The Grand, Clitheroe
Dennis Taylor chuckles down the telephone and with that gentle Northern Irish lilt he recalls an ungodly hour in an airport car park somewhere, when a shadowy figure confronts him a few rows away.
“It was 5am, and suddenly there’s this chap doing a mime of putting a snooker cue above his head,” said Taylor.
“And then he put his glasses the wrong way up and shouted, ‘Alright Dennis.
“I’ve been in supermarkets, queues at the bank, waiting for a train or on the golf course and people still waggle their finger at me and do that.
“It’s lovely, you know, after all this time.”
That distinctive cameo was Taylor’s DIY celebration at the conclusion of the greatest snooker match ever played, dubbed the Black Ball Final, and the memories remained undimmed for the man and his specially designed oversized snooker spectacles.
Taylor’s recovery from eight frames down to beat Steve Davis on the last black at the 1985 World Championship final provided the most extraordinary sporting story, and is still the most watched programme in BBC Two history.
And Taylor will roll back the years tomorrow at The Grand, Clitheroe, for a fun evening he describes as “lots of banter, chat, laughter and exhibition snooker”.
“I’d been trying for many years to be a champion, so there’s me winning it, with the big, silly upside-down glasses, waving the cue above my head and wagging my finger at the camera.
“I don’t think any Hollywood scriptwriter would have dared come up with a conclusion like that.
“My two sons hadn’t been able to come to the Crucible at Sheffield because of school, but they’d put a big banner across the front of our house in Blackburn.
“And what was so lovely about it was it didn’t say anything about being world champion.
“It just read, ‘Welcome home, Dad.”
He adds: “I ended up on the Val Doonican Christmas Special, The Terry Wogan show three times and A Question of Sport.
“It did change my life – but not me as a person.”
Taylor lived in Blackburn for 37 years, where he was joined by snooker hellraiser Alex “Hurricane” Higgins.
“Blackburn was a snooker hot bed when I arrived here from Northern Ireland and Alex moved to Blackburn because he knew I was there.
“I met Alex when I was 18 and we learned our trade together.
“I remember we did an exhibition match at Waddington and later on Alex ended up at a nightclub in Whalley called the Ace of Spades.
“He hijacked a milk float at 4am to get him back to Blackburn!
Taylor recalls learning to play the game, practising for hours at the old post office in the centre of Blackburn.
“I moved to Darwen when I was 17, where I had four aunts.
“It was like home from home and I worked at the Waterside Paper Mill in Darwen, doing 12-hour shifts to earn some money.
“After that I was in a shop in Blackburn selling televisions, washing machines and all sorts of stuff.
“It’s funny, we had a big family re-union last weekend in Northern Ireland and the one remaining aunt from Darwen, who is 82 now, was there.
We were always a very close family.
“It will be great to be playing back in Lancashire again. It is a very special place indeed.”
An Evening with Dennis Taylor, Clitheroe Grand, tomorrow.
01200 421599 or www.thegrandvenue.co.uk