Extract from John Lowe's Autobiography "Old Stoneface".
John Lowe was born on 21 July 1945 in New Tupton the son of Frederick Lowe and Phyllis Turner. He is the former English professional darts player who was one of the most skilled and best known darts player during the 1970’s and 1980’s, particularly in the United Kingdom. John Lowe is one of only six players to have won the World Championship three times, having done so in 1979, 1987, and 1993. The first player to win the World Championship in three separate decades, Lowe's titles and achievements span a career of almost forty years, but he is also most well known for being the first player to hit a televised nine dart finish (in 1984).
Here below is an extract from his Autobiography – “Old Stoneface – My Autobiography” with kind permission.
“Holly Hurst, my place of birth, was and remains to this day a semi-detached house on Ward Street in the village of New Tupton, Chesterfield in Derbyshire, that most wonderful of English counties.
Tupton isn’t quite in the Peak District, where the Dales are plentiful, but it’s only fifteen minutes’ drive from the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth House estate. The village is split into ‘New’ and ‘Old’ parts, although I’m quite sure why, because much of New Tupton is older than Old Tupton. When I was born, in the summer of 1945, Tupton was almost entirely a coal miners’ village, with whole generations of families working down the six mines within walking distance of the village.
Perhaps surprisingly, although my father was a coal miner, his father, John George Lowe, hadn’t been one. Instead, my grandfather had worked for the local council, repairing the roads. In those early days, mining work was plentiful and, unlike today, the workers went about their employment with a sense of pride and satisfaction. In order to support their large families, most put in long hours, and my father was no exception, even though there were only four of us in the family: himself my mother Phyllis; my sister, Margaret; and me.
Holy Hurst was a two-up/two-down semi-detached house that, in 1945, still has gas lighting and no bathroom. Being born in 1945 tends to indicate to ninety-eight out of every hundred people that you were a war baby – and yes, thankfully, I was part of the celebrations of winning the Second World War. My sister, Margaret, is six years older than me, and her entry into the world had been carefully planned by mother and father to fix the income and the size of the house, although my unplanned and unexpected arrival didn’t cause any terrible problems. I was one of over 100 children born in that year in our small village alone, part of the baby boom, so I had no shortage of friends of the same age to play with.
However, my upbringing was slightly different to most in Tupton. My mother and father were deeply religious members of the Pentecostal Church. They were very open about their religion and had no problems in letting people know about their beliefs, although they weren’t the kind to preach to others in the street or knock on doors, proclaiming, ‘The end is nigh! or similar. Instead they both led by example, living good Christian lives, attending church on a regular basis and standing rock-fast by the rules of their religion – which, incidentally, meant that they couldn’t spend any money on the Sabbath. And so, every Sunday, the whole family had to walk to the church – four miles away, in North Wingfield – in all kinds of weather. And I don’t mean just once on a Sunday; I mean three times: holy communion in the morning, Sunday School in the afternoon and then back for the evening service after tea.
Yes, my life as part of the Lowe household was different from that of most of my pals. While they were out on the street on a Sunday, kicking a football about or riding their bikes, my big sister and I would be off to church, dressed in our Sunday best. Even as I grew up and learned to understand more about my parents’ faith, I still remember enviously my friends playing on their doorsteps on Sundays. I remember desperately wanting to join in, but I never did – not for many years, anyway. Sundays apart, of course, I was free to do all the things the other kids did, with one restriction: I had to be in by nightfall.
Memories of my early youth aren’t hard to recall. For instance, I remember, at the age of four, the introduction of some wonderful new invention almost every month. When we eventually had electricity in Holy Hurst, you could at last see in every corner. Now, I’m not suggesting that my mother didn’t keep a clean house, but due to the brighter illumination the old whitewash was replaced with paint or wallpaper.
I also remember when the price family, who lived next door, purchased a television set. It had only a 9” screen and was, of course, a black-and-white set, but to them and us it was unbelievable, a miracle of science. The Prices were so proud of being the first family in the street to have a television that they would invite everyone in to watch the news.
Then there was the old tin bath – the symbol of all miners’ homes for years and years – that hung on the wall, either outside the back door or in the wash room. This was later replaced by a bathroom containing a vitreous-enamel bath, spouting hot and cold running water, and a washbasin standing proudly beside it. However, we couldn’t have everything; the toilet was still outside and remained there for a few years, although the bucket we’d previously used was replaced by a proper flushing toilet.
One part of the year that I remember fondly is Christmas. Of course, this was a special time for everyone. Just like today, there were families who would provide their kids with more than others were able to, but in those days it didn’t seem to matter as much. After a day or so, when their newness and some of their novelty had worn off , my friends and I would all share each other’s new toys. In those days, parents would consist of one special gift (usually a game that all the family could join in with), some chocolates, sweets and, of course, an apple and orange. I would be up at five o’clock on Christmas morning to unwrap my presents. I think that, because we didn’t get gifts every week like a lot of kids do today, it was a very special time, and father had to put extra hours in at work to provide us with all the trappings of the season…
Another of my most vivid memories of my childhood is that of my father sending me to Charlie Crampton’s local barbers, to fetch a new battery for the radio. I can hear you laughing now, but it’s true: our radio used to run on acid batteries, and the barber was the only man in the village who had the charges. His shop was only two doors down from Holy Hurst, so it wasn’t a hardship for me – although, with hindsight. It was probably very dangerous for a young child to be carrying an acid battery even a short distance."