TRIBUTES have been paid to Jocky Wilson, the Fifer who rose to become world darts champion and a folk hero throughout Scotland and beyond.

A recluse in his last years who rarely ventured from his home in Kirkcaldy, he had been suffering from the lung disorder chronic pulmonary obstructive disease and was taken ill on Saturday night.

The emergency services were called to his home in the Fife town at 10pm but he was dead by the time an ambulance arrived.

He was acknowledged as being one of the main forerunners in the popularity of darts, starring in the game and earning it coverage long before its current boom kicked in.

A proud Scot, Wilson engaged in a long-running battle with England's "Crafty Cockney" Eric Bristow, after pipping him in one of the all-time great finals in 1989.

"He was Scottish through and through. When he played against England, it was great for the Scots," another household name from Wilson's 1980s heyday, Bobby George, recalled.

"He was like the Braveheart of darts. He hated the English and wanted to beat them, he probably only got on with me because my mum was Scottish. He really turned it on when he played against England, he fought for the Scotsman in him."

John Lowe, one of the sport's all-time greats, wrote on Twitter: "Jocky Wilson, a player I rated one of the finest ever, and always enjoyed sharing the oche, RIP my friend."

Radio and TV presenter Edith Bowman added: "RIP fellow Fifer Jocky Wilson, darts legend."

Just a few weeks ago, Kirkcaldy Man, a 17-minute-long documentary about Scots-based filmmaker Julian Schwanitz's fruitless search for the reclusive Wilson, jointly won the Scottish Audience Award 2012 at the Glasgow Short Film Festival and last week won a Bafta Scotland New Talent award.

The British Darts Association said of Wilson, a former miner at Kirkcaldy's Seafield Colliery: "He was a true character of our sport and one of a talented group of players who helped to put darts on the TV map in the 70s and 80s. His distinctive and exciting style of play established him as a legendary sporting icon."

The Professional Darts Corporation, of which Wilson was a founder member, said it was "saddened" to hear of his death.

Wilson, 62, was one of the most popular darts players Britain has ever seen. His fame rested on his prowess at the oche, his toothless grin and heavy drinking, and on his two epic triumphs in the Embassy World Championships during the 1980s.

In 1982 he beat Lowe 5-3 to lift the title, and seven years later he disposed of Bristow, another of his great rivals, 6-4, after Bristow had recovered from being 5-0 down to reduce the score to 5-4.

He reached at least the quarter-finals of every world championship between 1979 and 1991, won the British Professional Championship four times between 1981 and 1988, and was also a three-time Scottish Masters champion.

Wilson, who was married, and had three children made his final TV appearance in the 1995 PDC World Matchplay, retiring from darts a year later.

Many also recalled the celebrated moment in 1982 when, on Top of the Pops, a photograph of him was displayed on a giant screen as Dexy's Midnight Runners played their hit single, Jackie Wilson Said. On Twitter yesterday, darts commentator Sid Waddell wrote: "Me and my lad Nick are working on a book that will show the human, sensitive side of Jocky –a scruffy orphanage-raised laddie."

In an earlier tweet he wrote: "Despite his faults he had a heart of gold."

The Scot's death even trended worldwide on the social network site, with one user noting: "A genuine star. In tribute we shouldn't say he died at 62, we should say he nailed a treble 10, double 16 checkout."