Quest continues preserve memory of Rondart – the only professional darts blower in the world
AN unusual family discovery has revived memories of a forgotten local legend – a West Auckland man who was the only professional darts blower in the world.
And now it is hoped the once-famous variety performer can be returned to the limelight if a newly opened museum takes on his story.
Elaine Vizor, from Spring Gardens, was sorting through belongings of her 94-year-old late father, Ronnie, with her siblings when they found an old Fairy Liquid bottle containing a few old darts.
“I could forgive my siblings for thinking this was probably an item for the skip but I recognised the treasure encapsulated within the protective bottle. These weren’t just any old darts but they were Rondart’s darts and specifically darts that he had used in his dart blowing variety act on a TV show in Japan in 1967,” said Ms Vizor.
Rondart, who was born in West Auckland in 1929, was the world’s only mouth-blowing dart variety entertainer. Born Ronnie Tomlinson, Rondart could hold a dart broadside in his mouth, blow it from 9ft and compete with normal dart players.
From 18ft, he could expel darts from his mouth and land them on the board, nearly always near the bull's eye. He could knock a cigarette off a man’s head, could blow darts from 15ft into the neck of a bottle and cut thin strands of cotton. He did so at the end of a performance to reveal a banner saying, “that’s all folks”.
Ms Vizor said: “I imagine my dad and his brother knew Ronnie Tomlinson through for their West Auckland family connections, perhaps overlapping for a time at West Auckland School as it was then, maybe meeting at the Greyhound pub where Ron and his brothers are said to have wowed regulars with their dart blowing abilities or maybe even West Auckland Working Men’s Club.”
When Ms Visor saw the darts in the old washing-up bottle, she knew exactly what they were.
“As it happened I had seen these and other of his darts before, along with a few other Rondart artefacts that he had given to my father and his brother over several years – he was local lad and very well known to my dad’s generation who held him in very high esteem.”
The collection of Rondart memorabilia includes a practice dartboard, signed publicity posters and a business card. Since making an initial appeal last December, Ms Vizor has met Rondart’s close family members in West Auckland
“They would love to see the artefacts displayed somewhere locally,” said Ms Vizor, who hopes the Bishop Auckland People’s Museum, which opened in May at the town’s Hippodrome Bingo, will help. She says The Bowes Museum may also be a possibility, although no approach has been made so far. She added: “It’s a privilege to have access to this small treasury of artefacts which my dad was determined should be preserved.
“They tell a little of a fulfilled life, a little of a great, gifted, talented and unique variety entertainer but remind us a lot of a local legend who should not be forgotten.
“West Auckland is the home of the first World Cup and the home of the world’s first and only, the greatest and unsurpassed variety dart blowing entertainer, Rondart.”
It is believed that Rondart learned to blow darts from his father who was wounded in the First World War. No longer able to use his arms to throw darts, he blew them. By the age of 12, in 1942, Rondart was touring the country before serving with the RAF until 1949 and then returning the variety. From humble beginnings, Rondart rose to the world stage, including cabaret status in Holland and visiting Japan and Taiwan in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Rondart’s unique act was very popular at the peak of variety and even continued on when variety began to wane. One of the highlights of his career was working with Stan Laurel in 1951 – perhaps their Bishop Auckland heritage connected them,” said Ms Vizor.
In 1965, he appeared on BBC1 in Billy Smart’s Circus and was later a guest on The Paul Daniels Magic Show.
Rondart returned to his County Durham roots in 1986, settling and then retiring in Witton Park where he died in 2005.
Ms Vizor said: “It is sad that Rondart’s fame wasn’t known in the same way to the younger generations and I wish I had asked my dad much more about him.
“I knew the artefacts were important to my dad and he wished for them to be preserved.”