With a rosette like a dustbin lid, a yellow blazer straight out of a holiday camp and a pair of flares that were roomier than the pockets, the referee was certainly dressed for the occasion.

English Open
Trump nears astonishing Hendry record after English Open victory

When Fred Davis made a rousing 109, the first century break of the 1979 World Championship, the moustachioed match official applauded the effort with his white gloves as if the antidote to kicks had been discovered. Or at least a reason to rejoice in donning those magnificent Dan Dares.

Despite being well and truly in the autumn of his career at the age of 65, Davis, born in Chesterfield in 1913, demonstrated the skills that brought him green baize garlands in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Davis was way past his pomp as the sport was dragged out of darkened rooms before the impending televised boom era of the 1980s, but reminded millions of his class with a cue stick in the formative years of the World Championship at the Crucible Theatre.

“He's a character this Fred, he really is. Here he is in the middle of a 73 break, and he starts cracking jokes," said a drooling commentator Jack Karnehm, a former world amateur champion.

Fred, the brother of 15-times world champion Joe Davis, lifted eight world titles between 1948 and 1956 when it felt like a brotherly British Empire affair.

He 18-16 lost to Perrie Mans in the semi-finals in 1978 at the age of 64 after overcoming John Virgo 9-8, Dennis Taylor 13-9 and Patsy Fagan 13-10 in the second year of the modern event in Sheffield. He downed Kirk Stevens 13-8 to reach the quarter-finals a year later before losing 13-4 to Australia's 'Steady' Eddie Charlton.


His final victory at the tournament over Stevens is one that has historic significance.

At the age of 65 and 217 days, Davis remains the oldest player to win a match at the Crucible. He is also the oldest man to make a century at the Sheffield showpiece.

Finding its way in the world, snooker was a far more genteel business back then with players enjoying a puff and a pint while playing safety with safety in mind.

Centuries were as unpredictable as blokes attempting a long pot.

Only 13 centuries were made in 1979 with Fred contributing two of them. Compare those statistics to the record haul of 2019 that witnessed 100 centuries, and you see that the game is played not just on another planet this weather, but in another snooker stratosphere.

Fred Davis last played at the Crucible at the age of 70 in 1984, losing 10-4 to Bill Werbeniuk in the first round, but remarkably continued playing competitively for another decade, losing 5-1 to a teenage Ronnie O'Sullivan in attempting to qualify for the 1992 Grand Prix before finally retiring a year later at the age of 79. He died in 1998, but history has been kind to his legacy.

“The grand old man. Follow that. A wonderful break from Fred, there he is smiling all over his face," says Karnehm as Davis completes his televised masterpiece, a sensation heartily endorsed by the referee's obvious glee.

Desmond Kane

English Open
Ronnie O'Sullivan reveals who has the best cue action in snooker history
English Open
'I impressed myself!' - Trump joins O'Sullivan in studio after English Open glory