Broadcaster and comedian Jim Bowen has died at the age of 80, his wife Phyllis has confirmed.
She announced the sad news to BBC Radio Lancashire on March 14, confirming that the beloved TV host had passed away after years of ill health.
Jim was best known as the host of darts-based games show Bullseye, joining as presenter in 1981 and working there until the programme ended in 1995.
He had suffered three strokes over the last few years – his first in 2011 were mild. But the last, in 2014, left him struggling to walk and talk for more than a year.
Things did improve, with Jim telling the Daily Mirror last August: “I feel all right although I’m having to work on the speech a bit. You’re constantly taking stock, in a room, in the street or leaning on a lamppost.”
"I’m very well and I’m expecting to make it!" he continued, joking, "Between your ears you feel 35 but when it gets to your legs and arms your body doesn’t know."
Born in Heswall on the Wirral, Jim was adopted by Joe and Annie Whittaker who lived in Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire.
Raised by a brickworker dad and weaver mum, he started working as a dustman when he was just 15, before training as a PE teacher and earning a position as deputy headmaster at Caton Primary School near Lancaster.
And it was there that he met his beloved wife Phyllis.
“The strokes weren’t nice but I’ve had more than my share of good luck with a priceless marriage and family," he told the Daily Mirror of their enduring 60-year marriage which produced children Susan and Peter.
Whilst continuing to teach, he got involved with a local am dram society and eventually started gigging part-time on the northern comedy circuit.
But after a successful appearance on Granada TV’s The Comedians, he decided to quit his day job and focus on TV work.
Roles in Last Of The Summer Wine, Take Two and children’s TV show You Must Be Joking swiftly followed, but it was in 1981 that his big break finally came when he became the host of Bullseye.
However, Jim, who lived in Penrith, Cumbria, always avoided the glittery life, insisting: “I don’t regard myself as a star. I was never aware of how big I was until Bullseye hit the 19 million mark.”
But family, not fame, was his cornerstone. He said of wife Phyllis: “I worship the ground she walks on.”
A year previously, in July 2016, Jim updated the Mirror about his ill health after the third debilitating stroke.
“I’m doing very well. It’s five years since I had my first stroke, my progress has been slow but steady so my speech is roughly back to speed and I can walk with a stick and everything," he said at the time.
He paid tribute to his beloved wife, saying she was his everything.
"The biggest and best thing that every happened to me, without whom I wouldn’t be around, is my wife Phyllis. She’s been immeasurably valuable to me," he went on.
"My Grandsons are two fine young boys, they are quality, but life without Phyllis would be disastrous."
He continued: “We’ve been married 59 years. We’re having a party this year on my birthday on the 20th August. I thought we’d have a few friends over for lunch as a rehearsal, but then next year we’ll do a 60th anniversary and my 80th birthday party.
“It’s fantastic isn’t it. It’s unquantifiable good luck. It’s about being in the right place at the right time. I met her whilst trying to be a teacher at Chester college. We met at a college dance and it’s been marvellous. How do you measure that in terms of quality of life?
Asked if his wife kept his feet on the ground, Jim added: “I think so and I think it’s easy to believe in your own situation, sometimes it’s misguided belief. Sometimes you’re not quite as big as you think you are. Too much ego is not a good thing.”
Jim became a cult star with catchphrases like “You can’t beat a bit of Bully” and “Look at what you could have won” as darts-based game show Bullseye drew audiences of 11 million for ITV for 14 years until 1995.
He added: “I still get recognised and I am in the public’s mindset. When they do see me I do feel the warmth and I am quite proud really.”
In 1999 he turned his hand to radio, presenting his own show on BBC Radio Lancashire, and in 2009 held a mid-morning show with 106.6 Indigo FM in Cumbria.
He was also famous for living in Kirby Lonsdale railway station, having converted the building into a private home.
Jim once showed off his unusual property on Through the Keyhole.
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