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Wearing glasses can be a disadvantage in most sports, but not in snooker, where
Dennis Taylor made an optician famous by wearing his specially designed
The man who developed Taylor’s distinctive swivel-lens spectacles was
London-born Jack Karnehm. Karnehm, who worked as a BBC snooker
commentator, had served a five-year spectacle-making apprenticeship. He came
up with an upside-down design, which offered wider peripheral vision and it
helped Taylor and many more snooker players, who need to wear glasses when
Denis Taylor, the son of a lorry driver, was born on January 19, 1949, and he
and his six siblings were raised in Coalisland. Dennis, played Gaelic football for
Na Fianna, inter-county minor football for Tyrone and soccer for Coalisland
He moved to Darwen near Blackburn when he was 17, worked in a paper mill
and had a trial with Blackburn Rovers. He later worked in an electrical
appliance shop and managed a snooker club in Preston.
As an amateur, Dennis won the 1968 British Junior Billiards Championship and
turned professional in 1972. He made his debut in World Snooker
Championship in 1973, losing to Cliff Thorburn in the first round.
Over the next few years, Taylor reached the semi-finals of the Championship
in ‘75 and 77 and qualified for the final in 7’9 where he lost to Terry Griffiths.
He reached the semi-final again in 1984, losing to Davis. His mother died as he
was beginning the new season at the1984 Jameson International.
No doubt 1985 was to be Taylor’s year and his late night/early morning win
over Steve Davis is said to be one of the most famous snooker matches of all
time and part of the reason for the surge in the sport’s popularity in the eighties.
In the tournament at the Crucible in Sheffield, Taylor beat Silvino Francisco,
Eddie Charlton, Cliff Thorburn and Tony Knowles on his way to the final.
Davis had beaten Neil Foulds, David Taylor, Terry Griffiths and Ray Reardon.
In the 35th and final frame which lasted 68 minutes, Davis lead 62-44 with only
the last four colored balls on the table. Taylor came back and had a chance to
win the game, but his effort to pot the black failed. Then both players had
further chances to win the game before Taylor eventually potted the black for
his famous win.
Afterwards Taylor held the snooker cue high above his head in celebration. The
match, which ended at 12.23am on the Monday morning, attracted 18.5 million
viewers, setting UK viewership records for any post-midnight broadcast and for
any broadcast on BBC Two.
On his return to Northern Ireland, Taylor was afforded a hero’s welcome with
an estimated crowd of 10,000 tuning out to greet him in his native Coalisland.
His only other ranking title win was at the 1984 Grand Prix, where he beat Cliff
Thorburn in the final, and he also won the invitational 1987 Masters,
defeating Alex Higgins in the final. He made the highest break of his career, a
141 at the 1987 Carling Challenge, which he won, beating Joe Johnson in the
Alongside other players managed by Barry Hearn, known as
the ‘Matchroom Mob’ and Chas & Dave, Taylor featured on
a single called ‘Snooker Loopy,’ which got to number six in the charts.
Since retiring from the professional tour, Dennis has played on the World
Seniors Tour and has featured as a commentator on BBC snooker broadcasts.
He also appeared on the third series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing,’ finishing
eighth with dance partner Izabela Hannah.
Dennis says snooker unified the northern communities throughout The
Troubles. He said: ‘‘I think it was just a week or so after 1985 final, I had an
exhibition game arranged for the Shankill Leisure Centre in Belfast. There I
was, a wee former altar boy from Coalisland, turning up at the Shankill. But I
got an unbelievable reception. Snooker is like most other sports, it brings people
Taylor says he never tires of talking about the Black Ball final. He said ‘‘It’s a
bit like Geoff Hurst being asked about his hat-trick for England in the 1966
World Cup final. I had spent 18 years trying to win the big one. I felt I should
have won it in 1979, but was outplayed by Terry Griffiths in the final.’’
A Blackburn Rovers and Man United fan, Dennis now lives near Wrexham with
his second wife Louise and their children Cameron and Amber. He has two sons
with first wife Pat.