Castlewellan widow’s love for darts legend Andy Fordham

Castlewellan widow’s love for darts legend Andy Fordham

8 September 2021

A CASTLEWELLAN woman who was married to former world darts champion Andy Fordham has revealed in a moving interview how she begged the man known as a “gentle giant” to quit drinking and how it bought them 14 more years together.

In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, his grieving widow Jenny said the darts ace always made her “laugh like a teenager”.

Known as The Viking by darts fans given his 32-stone frame, long mane and bushy beard, the darts king who died last July was equally known for has amazing ability to down huge quantities of alcohol while still winning vital matches.

His widow — who has faced two cancer battles —said she told her husband that he had a choice.

She told him: “Go and have a drink, but go and find somewhere else to drink it because I’m not going to watch you die.”

Jenny, who had 42 years with her husband, said that when she had cancer, she got up every day, put her make-up on and went behind the bar and worked. She said her husband was told that if he stopped drinking, he would be all right and live.

“There were tears and a few words were said and then in the morning he woke a completely different person,” she recalled in her interview with the Sunday newspaper.

“It was amazing when he stopped drinking. He turned everything around after that. Everyone was like, ‘it’s like having a new man’.”

Speaking for the first time since Andy’s death from liver failure on July 15, Jenny said he was the love of her life and she can’t believe that he’s gone, revealing that her husband broke down the day doctors warned him that he could die.

Holding his hand as he lay ill in hospital, she told him: “You can’t die yet because I’m the wrong age to be a widow. I should have been an old widow or a young widow, so you can’t go.” He said, ‘Well if I go then you’re coming with me’. I said, ‘No, I’m not, I’m going to enjoy the rest of my life if that happens.”

Jenny revealed the mood changed with her husband saying he didn’t feel right and was sent for chest X-rays. 

“I sat with him until 3am, then went home. Then they called me at 6am and said you’d better come back. He was on oxygen. He looked at me and I said ‘You’re all right, love’. I gave him a kiss and said, ‘I love you.’ And he said, ‘I love you’.

“And that was it. He never spoke after that. He was dead by 12.45pm. It was awful.”

Andy, who was 59, was admitted to hospital on June 15 with an infection with Jenny explaining that medical staff drained 12 litres of liquid from his body.

“He was on intravenous antibiotics, his kidneys were trying to take over from his liver, so they gave him medication to get his kidneys working properly. But over a couple of weeks he was starting to improve.

“The doctor kept saying ‘Are you sure you’re not diabetic?’ and he went ‘No, I’m just fat’. It was typical Andy.” 

The star’s humour was one of the great bonds between the couple, even in bleak times, with Jenny recalling that they had a light-hearted discussion about what he wanted at the funeral. 

“He said for his last song he wanted A Thousand Green Bottles and nobody was allowed to go until they’d gone down to number one,” she revealed.

“I remember when I had chemo and all my hair fell out and he said he would shave his hair as well but I said please don’t do that.”

Jenny recalled that in 2004, when her husband defeated Mervyn King 6-3 to win the BDO world title. Andy’s binges blurred his memory of the event.

“When he woke up he had a Pot Noodle, downed 12 bottles of lager and half a bottle of brandy. Went out. Played. Came off. Downed another load of booze. He has no memory of throwing the winning dart – double eight – and had to watch the final on DVD to remember what happened.”

Jenny and Andy ran The Rose pub in Dartford, Kent and he was regularly sinking 24 bottles of beer a day.

Subsequently, Andy went on Celebrity Fit Club on television in 2004 and gained a new army of fans. It was a health crisis in 2007 – when he was rushed to hospital during a match – that finally halted him in his tracks. Doctors told him his liver could fail. And when he returned home, Jenny delivered her ultimatum – shape up or ship out and Andy rose to the challenge. A mega diet led him to shed 16 stone, though he would put some of that back on.

He drifted off the darts circuit but was looking forward to the World Seniors Championship next year, with his wife revealing that the 12 months leading up to his death had been a nightmare.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time and required an operation, while daughter Emily had open-heart surgery to fix a faulty valve. Then Andy lost his mum Maureen, 75, to cancer. At his lowest point he admitted to having suicidal thoughts.

“He did suffer from depression,” Jenny revealed “He said he wouldn’t go to any support groups because he would feel sorry for the other people and would want to take them for a drink. I would come back from work and he would be sitting there and tell me, ‘I’ve had a really bad day, everyone would be better off without me’.”

Andy had been in hospital in 2020 for treatment for a blockage in his bowel before contracting Covid-19 early this year. Although he was terrified of dying from the virus, it was liver damage which led to his death.

Despite his drinking, Andy was always a devoted father and husband and Jenny says he cried for days when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998.

She recalls: “That was really scary. They told me on New Year’s Eve and I got back to the pub at 4pm and told him – and he cried until about January 3. He was meant to be playing in the world championships and I think he went out the first round. He couldn’t concentrate.

“We weren’t married so they said they were going to put our kids into care if one of us died. So we got married in May 2000. When anyone says, ‘Why did it take so long?’, he always said, ‘I wanted to wait for the kids to come along to see if they liked her first’.”

Jenny is on medication for the next five years and hopes to keep her cancer at bay and in addition to Emily she and Andy had a son Raymond and eight grandchildren.

Recalling the first time she met Andy at their local pub in Charlton, Jenny said he offered to buy her a drink. 

“He had a full beard, big leather jacket and hair down to his waist. I was 16 and he was only 17.

“Then we were inseparable. That was 1979 and the rest is history.”