Huntly Highlander is toast of the town after winning World Cup of Darts championship in Germany
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HUNTLY gave a hero's welcome to World Cup of Darts champion John Henderson at tea time on Tuesday.
The Huntly Toon Blether Facebook page hastily rallied people to line the route into The Square and hundreds of all ages turned out waving flags and banners.
The Highlander had driven from Edinburgh airport where he arrived from Germany on Monday night and had picked up his wife, Veronica, who was part of the plan, in Aberdeen, thinking they were going home for a quiet night.
He waved to a small gathering at the Market Muir but still had no idea what lay ahead as they passed along Gordon Street but as he drove into The Square the crowd erupted cheering and clapping.
His first words, repeated time and again during the welcome celebration, were - "I never expected this."
As he stepped out of his car he was quickly surrounded by people eager to shake his hand and pass on their congratulations.
His mum, Margaret, modestly made her way to her son and gave him a hug to beat all others before heading back to John's house to wait with the rest of the family.
Friends, Ryan Lamb, Trevor Ramsay and Ricky Stewart, who have supported John’s journey to a professional player were among the first to congratulate him and all described his world championship title as well deserved.
Trevor, watched play in a pub in Manchester and even had locals cheering on Big John.
Trevor said: “It’s been an emotional journey but his success is so well deserved.”
Ryan admitted that he could barely watch TV as the final match was played.
Ricky hopes that a bigger celebration can be planned.
He said: “Maybe we can get the cup to Huntly and have something at Christie Park with Huntly FC.”
Mobile phones clicked incessantly as people lined up to have their photo taken with John and no one was turned away by the champion who admitted he had barely slept since Sunday's victory.
Mike Cruickshank from Kennethmont was over the moon when John, like a gentle giant held his grand-daughter, seven week old Ella Souter for a photo.
John 48, came late to darts. He started playing at Huntly Cricket Club in the late 1980's but it was not until 2000 that he started plating at County level.
Typically modest, John credited Gary Anderson for giving him the opportunity to play in the competition.
He said: "It was an was honour to represent Scotland - I never thought I would play and I wouldn't have if Gary hadn't pulled out - I grabbed the chance with both hands and here I am.
"I haven't really taken in what it means yet - I am quiet overwhelmed and never expected anything like this welcome. Folk have just gone mad - I have over 600 messages on my phone which I haven't read yet. The support means a lot to me."
His wife Veronica who has been at his side through most major ties was gutted she could not be with him in Germany but the short notice call up meant she could not arrange time off work.
She said: "I was devastated not to be there but it's fantastic that all his hard work is paying off."
The short trip from The Square to his home was a stop start affair as families were out in their gardens to cheer him and he stopped to chat.
John’s wife, Veroncia said: “I am really chuffed by how many folk have turned out, it shows what folk think of him.”
Mum, Margaret, aunts Elizabeth, June and Trish, cousin Shonagh, father in law Eddie and uncles waited at his house where the garden wall was decorated with flags.
Margaret said: “ I still can’t believe it, my heart is fit to burst with pride. It was nervy to watch, I couldn’t watch it I went from room to room and peaked round the door to see what the score was before sitting down again.”
Before finally heading in to his house for a celebratory drink, John said: “It’s been fantastic - such a great welcome. I have always been going for the accolade of word champion and now I have it.
“I appreciate everyone coming out.”