Tributes to snooker ace John Dunning

FAMILY and friends of John Dunning, Gildersome's former world and UK championship snooker quarter-finalist, have said farewell at his funeral this week.

Mr Dunning passed away at his home on Scott Green Drive on September 11.

His widow Sylvia has paid tribute to her husband of 60 years by saying that although his snooker career took him all over the world, his heart was always at home with his family.

Mr Dunning was born in Morley and went to Bridge Street School. Loving all sports, from wrestling to football, snooker was his greatest love.

Mr Dunning joined the Royal Navy aged just 18 where he served for two years. Shortly afterwards he met Sylvia at Ackroyd Street Club where she worked behind the bar and he played snooker.

YOUR TRIBUTES: Click here to leave your own memories of John Dunning.

Just 18 months later the couple were married at St Paul's Church, Morley, and later had two children, Ken and Lynn.

For the years that followed, Mr Dunning ran a newsagents in Morley Bottoms with his brother Geoff and was also a window cleaner around the town.

Mr and Mrs Dunning later became the steward and stewardess of Fountain Street Club where they lived for eight years.

The family moved to Gildersome 36 years ago.

It was in 1973, aged 47, while working as a partner for a snooker accessories company, Mr Dunning became a professional snooker player.

He beat David Taylor and Eddie Charlton to reach the last eight of the 1974 World Championship before narrowly losing 15-13 to Graham Miles. He got to the UK quarters three years later, losing to Alex Higgins.

He won the Yorkshire Championship 11 times and also appeared in the round-robin final of the 1984 Yamaha Masters at the age of 56, which would be his finest hour finishing third behind Steve Davis and David Martin.

Throughout his snooker career he travelled all over the country and as far as Australia.

Mrs Dunning said: "He hated the flying, but loved playing and he always wanted to come home afterwards. He didn't want to stop over after playing in a tournament."

As well as playing all over the country and abroad, he also played many matches, both amateur and professional, at Fountain Street Club.

Aged 56, Mr Dunning remains the oldest player to have appeared in a televised snooker final.

He qualified for the Crucible in 1981 and 1982 and played his last match as a professional in 1997 at the age of 69.

His dedication to playing the game was clear after suffering his first heart attack during one tournament in Bristol.

Mrs Dunning said: "He was ill on the way there but didn't want to give in. During the match he was clutching at his chest, but he still carried on playing.

“He lost the game and afterwards he sat in the lounge and he just keeled over.”

In 1997 he had a heart bypass but still continued playing the game he loved.

Then two years ago he was diagnosed with cancer of the aesophogus.

“Over the last six weeks he had been badly and was diagnosed with secondary cancer of the spine and was told it had spread to his bones,” Mrs Dunning said.

On September 11, Mr Dunning passed away at home.

Tributes flooded onto internet snooker forums where fans and players had left messages.

Six times World Champion, Ray Reardon, who beat Mr Dunning 15-7 en-route to the 1976 world title, said: “He was a fine player and an entertaining one, good at attacking and good on the tactical side. He was a charming man with a lovely northern accent.”

One wrote: “I played him a couple of times in pro-arms in the late 80s, early 90s. A lovely player and thoroughly nice gentleman. Best wishes to his family at this sad time.”

Another wrote: “John was a great lad and kept young by being friendly and helpful to the up-and-coming youngsters. John’s main achievement was his easy smile in difficult times and situations. God bless.”

Mrs Dunning said: “Everybody says the same about him. He had a happy smile, was a happy person and was liked by everyone.”

Mr Dunning’s funeral was held yesterday at St Peter’s Church, Gildersome, followed by cremation at Cottingley Crematorium.