I was born into a working
class family (1949) in industrial Loughborough,
Leics and was a ‘sickly child’ so schooling
was often interrupted.
My parents owned a couple
of old gramophones and Dad had a lot of American
78s from his war service in the RAF so I was
drawn into the sheer fascination of sound
coming from those dance band and piano shellacs.
Grammar school on an 11+
scholarship gave little musical education
in a ‘top stream’ timetable but a couple of
excellent teachers allowed us to listen to
popular classics on electric record players
and some wonderful sounds stuck with me.
University in Sheffield,
reading Philosophy, allowed access to marvellous
Hallé/SNO concerts in the Oval Hall
as well as Firth Hall concerts with the Pierrot
Players (later Fires of London) and the Lindsays
as Sheffield’s resident string quartet when
young. Such luck to hear quality when I was
in my 20s at an important time for music.
I met and assisted John Cage
when visiting pals at York University and
became friendly with Henze and, later, Bedford
when in the working world. Max and Harry were
always charming to students but actually assisting
an older generation, as a non-musician but
a man with ears, was so thrilling. I was very
My career was in special
education and extremely rapid progress (headmaster
at 29) allowed me to buy good equipment and
the vast archives I have resulted from efficient
use of it using Ferrograph and Revox for the
excellence of the Glock/Ponsonby management
of BBC’s classical output. I also bought LPs
in that rash of adventure in the 1970s (usually
two copies) because I foresaw that companies
would cut and run, duly warned by Stockhausen,
Ligeti and some top conductors of that time
and still with us.
A non-musician was given
respect as an amateur enthusiast with ears
and recording abilities by some of the greats.
I just knew that I lived at an important time
and that corporations would bottle out sooner
Despite a busy working life
and increasing bouts of illness, I was lucky
enough to make two classical music series
for BBC Radio Norfolk (syndicated) in my spare
time and this led to making important contacts
in the festivals world, notably Aldeburgh
and its archives.
I completed a very late PhD
in 1996 (Epistemology but using some musical
test technique results I had devised working
with autistic children). Apart from that career
and music remained separate.
Serious illness caused the
end of my career in 1998 and my children were
of an age to be set for tertiary education
so I retired to rural Ireland at the end of
2000 for the silence needed for listening.
Such remote and simple living
isn’t for everyone but I love music and was
lucky enough to have an excellent education
so my ‘job’ is maintaining an archive and
hearing things anew in such a silent place.
What is issued and, indeed,
reviewed on MWI is far from all that there
is so a disabled man as custodian of music
not heard for a generation is an inherent
satisfaction with a view to sharing it as
and when – and with it the cultural context
of important times and scholarship.
Besides, music is damned