RONDART rides again! An exhibition in the People’s Museum in the Hippodrome this month is dedicated to the world’s only professional dart-spitter, Ronnie Tomlinson from West Auckland – or “Rondart” as he was known on stages, and television screens, around the world.
Rondart with his glamorous assistant, Cristina, his second wife
Ronnie’s father, Harry, devised the art of spitting darts while in the First World War trenches with the Durham Light Infantry. He passed the skill onto his brother-in-law, Stephen “Syd” Hall of Darlington, who turned it into a pub act. He appeared as the interval entertainment at the Arcade cinema in Skinnergate, Darlington, spitting darts from the balcony to target in front of the screen, and in 1938, he became the first World Dart Pouffing Champion in a competition organised by the Daily Mirror.
Indeed, the only World Dart Pouffing Champion as the world had other things on its mind in 1939.
Young Ronnie came to stay with his uncle Syd in Darlington and learned the art and by the age of 12 was appearing on stage in London, spitting a dart so that it knocked a lit cigarette off his sister’s head.
Rondart in balloon-popping action with the help of a scantily-clad assistant in British Pathe’s 1955 footage
Aided by his glamorous assistants, this developed into a global act. He appeared on BBC1 in Billy Smart’s Circus in 1967, the Wheeltappers and Shunters Club in 1976 with Bernard Manning, and on the Paul Daniels Magic Show in 1985. In the exhibition are the very darts he used during an appearance on Japanese TV in 1967.
His last TV appearance was in 1997 on the Spanish version of the Generation Game after which he retired to Witton Park with his second wife and glamorous assistant, Cristina.
Rondart memorabilia in the new exhibition
“My dad, Ronny Pounder, and his brother Dennis grew up in West Auckland and knew all about Rondart, maybe meeting him in the Greyhound where he performed in his early days,” says Elaine Vizor, whose collection of items has formed the exhibition. “When he retired, they would meet him down Bishop for a cup of tea, and he would give them items, perhaps in return for donations.”
And so the exhibition features Ron’s practice dartboard, signed photos, posters, programmes as well as his darts with his teethmarks on their wooden barrels – he would place them sideways in his mouth and then with his tongue propel them up to 18ft at the bull’s eye.
It really is a remarkable collection from a lost age of entertainment. The exhibition runs until April 5, and to learn more about Rondart, go along because a Memories article from 2020 features in it, telling the whole story.
- The People’s Museum in the Hippodrome in Railway Street is staffed by volunteers. It is open Mondays and Sundays 5pm to 10pm, and Tues to Sat 10.30am to 2pm and 5pm to 10pm