Short Stories

‘Dennis Taylor’ By: Seán Creedon

Was from Dublin. By: Liam Nolan



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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.