Remembering Desmond Carrington

The funeral of ATV actor and BBC Radio broadcaster Desmond Carrington has taken place earlier today.

The 90-year-old, who died on February 1st after suffering from cancer, was sent off in style at Perth Crematorium. The Kent-born personality had spent many years living in Perthshire, with his weekly Radio 2 programme ‘The Music Goes Round’ broadcast from his converted barn studio at his home in Dunning. Desmond, also nicknamed ‘Desmondo’, bid farewell to his loyal listeners in October 2016 as ill-health forced him to retire from the airwaves. He had presented regularly on Radio 2 since 1981.

Desmond, who became a household name in the 1950s and 60s starring in ATV medial serial Emergency Ward 10, made the announcement he would be retiring from his presenting duties at the end of one of his broadcasts.

“And there we are; that is all for tonight’s programme…  And now for a bit of difficult news, my friends. I wasn’t too well after my 90th birthday and it has been a bit difficult to carry on with the 36 happy years I’ve had making ‘the music go round’, so reluctantly – but I hope sensibly – I’m going to hang up my headphones at the end of October and say ‘enough is enough’. Seventy years on the air since 1945 isn’t a bad record, and it is now time to welcome someone younger.


“So I have another four Friday editions of The Music Goes Round left for me to enjoy during October and I do hope you’ll be able to join me for each one of them. In the meantime, my grateful, grateful thanks to producer Dave Aylott and thank you for having us at your place. As for Golden Paws Sam, his days of singing to a pussycat audience are gone now but he still has human admirers, and he knows it. Join us all again please next Friday here on BBC Radio 2. So, bye just now from Desmond Carrington.”

Making the music go round at BBC Radio 2

A professional actor from the age of 16, Desmond began his broadcasting career in 1945. After a spell in Northern Ireland, he was posted to an Officers’ training school in Mhow, India, where he was eventually commissioned. Hearing some programmes from a British Forces Broadcasting station, Radio SEAC, based in Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), he managed to get posted there as Lieutenant Carrington, Royal West Kent Regiment. The first person he met when he arrived at the station was Petty Officer David Jacobs with whom he shared almost exactly the same age and both had birthdays four days apart in May. They became good friends and their careers continued on parallel paths, including both working at Radio 2. David sadly passed away in 2013.

On Desmond’s demobilisation and return to Britain in late 1946, he picked up his acting career and appeared in stage shows and several short films including ‘Calamity the Cow’ which also starred a very young Phil Collins. He was first heard on BBC Radio in 1946 as a member of the BBC Drama Repertory Company; while as an independent producer he started to make programmes on tape for Radio Luxembourg and the BBC. In the 1950s, he devised and contributed weekly to the BBC radio series Movie-go-Round and he acted in TV plays followed by a decade of theatre, film, TV and radio work. This led to Desmond landing the part of “heart-throb” Doctor Anderson for six years in ATV Elstree based medical serial, Emergency Ward 10, which drew audiences of 19 million viewers to ITV.

In the 1960s and 70s Desmond spent seven years presenting the Daz ‘Swap’ TV adverts, made guest appearances on TV quiz shows, dramas and music programmes. He was one of the regular presenters of the daily series Album Time on the BBC Light Programme, as well as the record request show Housewives’ Choice. He also presented many live broadcasts of popular orchestral concerts from venues throughout Britain during the 70s and 80s and he compered the Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Royal Albert Hall from 1991 to 2002.

Broadcasting ‘on the wireless’ in the 1940s.

Desmond continued his theatre work and was now able to choose his stage play roles. His favourite was playing King Edward VIII in Royce Ryton’s Crown Matrimonial in the 1970s, which won Desmond great acclaim when he toured the play in theatres across the UK. Other notable performances included leading roles in Alan Bennett’s The Far Country and Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw.

Desmond’s weekly Friday evening programme, The Music Goes Round, had been broadcast on Radio 2 for 36 years. The show, which was originally called All Time Greats, first aired on Sunday October 4th in 1981 with Desmond as presenter. Already a successful broadcaster, he was chosen to front the new hour-long record show at Sunday lunchtimes for a three-month stint. The series was a hit and the run was extended.

In 2004, All Time Greats moved to Tuesday evenings under the new name of The Music Goes Round. The programme in its final years aired at 7pm on Friday evenings where Desmond guided listeners through an eclectic mix of records, both new and old. Each week’s playlist reflected a theme and included relevant tracks featuring everything from ballads to Big Band, rock to reggae, psychedelia to swing and everything in-between. In what must have been of the most extensive and wide-ranging personal record libraries, Desmond collected over 250,000 tracks, built up since the 1940s, and spanned every genre of music. Originally pre-recorded, Desmond began to broadcast live from home on the day Princess Diana died (31 August, 1997) after agreeing with Jim Moir, then Controller of Radio 2, that the pre-recorded programme wouldn’t be appropriate given the day’s tragic events.

With Richard Thorp (left) and Desmond (right) in ATV’s medical saga Emergency Ward 10

His warm tones and informative chat have been welcomed by people of all ages both in the UK and around the world, as hundreds of letters and emails to the show bear witness. He closed each show with a signature thank you to his listeners and producer [Dave Aylott], and a reference to the antics of his much-loved Abyssinian cat, “Golden Paws Sam, the Number One Puss Cat” before delivering his trademark sign off “Bye just now from Desmond Carrington”.

The final Music Goes Round was transmitted on Friday 28th October; it featured many of Desmond’s favourite songs and artists. In the week Desmond died BBC Radio 2 broadcast a tribute programme to the personality, it had been produced a few weeks before his death and had by co-incidence been scheduled to air before the news of his sad passing.

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7 Replies to “Remembering Desmond Carrington”

  1. Wonderful talented man. It was so emotional hearing his partner speak recently on Radio 2 about our dear desmondo.

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