To be on-air at the age of ninety, hosting your favourite sort of radio, is something most broadcasters dream of. Desmond Carrington managed it.
When he announced in September 2016 that his last programme was to air in a month’s time, it was clear that his familiar voice occupied a special place in the Nation’s heart. Hardly surprising after seventy years on-air.
"Love this guy. Sad to see the show end".
"An absolute legend. One of our greatest radio voices. I shall miss him terribly".
"How I'll cope without him completely I don't quite know."
Like many broadcasters of his generation, born as radio itself was born, his performances began on stage. At his professional debut at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, in 1942, he played opposite Noel Johnson in ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips’. Noel was the voice of radio’s Dick Barton.
Following the War, Desmond persuaded his way on-air at BFBS in what was then Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
On his return to the UK, alongside some independent radio production for the BBC and Radio Luxembourg, he was to return to acting, this time on TV, playing the part of the hearthrob Dr. Anderson in Emergency - Ward 10. He even was the chap who asked you to swap your normal washing powder for Daz in the 60s TV ads.
He was first heard on BBC Radio in 1946 as a member of the BBC Drama Repertory Company and later began broadcasting on the BBC Light Programme with ‘Movie Go Round’ and programmes like Housewives’ Choice.
October 1981 saw the start of 'All Time Greats' on BBC Radio 2. This Sunday lunchtime programme became a familiar part of the English Sunday tradition. He moved in 2004 to Tuesdays, as ‘The Music Goes Round’ before settling in 2010 in his familiar Friday evening slot. Desmond broadcast from his home in Perthshire, where he was able to draw upon his own rich personal record collection of over 250,000 tracks, spanning every genre of music from the last century.
Originally pre-recorded, he began broadcasting live on the day Princess Diana died in 1997, feeling, rightly, that a live programme would better reflect the Nation’s mood that day.
Desmond was voted British Radio Personality of the Year in 1991 – and was awarded the Gold Badge of Merit in 1989 by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.
The trend for today’s radio is authenticity. Desmond was authentic. Yet his programme was a warm reality, a chap playing his favourite songs fondly to friends from the comfort of his own home, his cat by his side.
“I’m one of the luckiest people in showbusiness – at home in beautiful countryside, doing what I love. It’s not work, it’s pleasure. Why should I stop?”
He did stop, with reluctance, as he said on-air as he announced his departure: "I wasn't too well after my 90th birthday and it has been a bit difficult to carry on”. His remark was an understatement. He’d battled cancer and lived with Alzheimer’s disease for several years, suffering a second heart failure on Christmas Day 2015. “I’m eternally grateful to the superb doctors and nurses of the Scottish NHS for saving my life”.
With Desmond’s departure, another silvery sliver of that comfortable, warm, reassuring Light Programme sound flitters off into radio history. Radio will never be quite the same again.
Bye, just now.