Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: November 01, 2017
Webpage updated: August 13, 2018




William Dudley Savage was born at Gulval, near Penzance, Cornwall, on March 20th 1920.

His mother was the deputy organist at the parish church and taught him to play the piano.  When only a toddler, he accompanied her to services and learned to play the organ before his legs could reach the pedals.  At the age of only nine he travelled on his own to Plymouth, where he tied for first place in a musical festival for boys under the age of twelve. 

He studied the organ under the assistant organist at Truro Cathedral and quite often made the journey from Penzance to Plymouth to hear Doctor Harry Moreton, the Plymouth Borough Organist, play recitals on the organs in the Guildhall and Saint Andrew's Church.  At the age of 16 he won the Organ Solo event at the Cornish Music Festival.

On the last day at school in July 1936 a friend told him that Mr Harold Ramsey, who was playing the organ at the opening of the Union Cinemas' new Ritz Cinema in Penzance, would like to see him.  After playing a number of popular pieces, Mr Ramsey asked him if he knew any classical ones and he promptly played Bach's Fugues.  Mr Ramsey asked the youngster to send his father to see him and he was placed under contract to Union Cinemas to tour England.  When Union Cinemas Ltd were taken over by Associated British Cinemas in 1937-38, he transferred to the the new owners.

A couple of years later, fate took a hand.  Mr Wilfred Southworth, the organist at the Forum Cinema in Birmingham, was engaged to play the new Compton organ at the opening of the Royal Cinema in Plymouth on Friday July 15th 1938 and for a period thereafter.  Sadly Mr Southworth lost his life on Friday July 22nd 1938 while bathing off Wembury and the position thus became unexpectedly vacant.

Dudley was on that day playing at the Adelphi Kinema, Slough, when he was summoned to Plymouth.   Early on the Sunday morning he did a broadcast to the British Empire from the BBC theatre organ in London and then, accompanied by his father, made the hectic dash down to Plymouth to start his new appointment at the Royal Cinema on Monday July 25th 1938.

He went to live at number 5 Beauchamp Villas, in Tavistock Road, Peverell, next door to Sydney Vosper MRCS LRCP and his family.  On July 17th 1940 Mr William Dudley Savage married Miss Doreen Mary Vosper at Saint Budeaux Parish Church, the "girl next door".   Whether that was before or just after he received his wartime call-up papers is not known.

During the Second World War he served as a Captain in India and when he contracted malaria he found himself in hospital listening to the BBC World Service on the radio.  He noticed that the request programmes were always orientated towards gramophone records and thought it would be a wonderful idea to have a programme of "live" music played especially for those in hospital.   When he returned to Britain he became a free-lance broadcaster and composer and approached Mr Frank Gillard at the BBC with his idea. 

Thus it was that on June 10th 1948 Dudley Savage made the first broadcast of "As Prescribed" on the BBC's West of England Home Service.  This regular Sunday morning request programme was relayed live from the Royal Cinema to the BBC in Bristol and then via the Clevedon transmitter to the rest of the West of England.  All the requests were played "live" on the organ, which made it a very different - and very popular - radio show.

As part of a cost cutting exercise the BBC cut the programme from the schedules, the last one being transmitted on Sunday September 22nd 1968.  However, this set off a storm of protests and by public demand Dudley and "As Prescribed"  returned on Sundays December 22nd and 29th 1968 and then on a monthly basis in 1969 but supplanting the organ with those dreaded gramophone records.  That was how Governments used to kill off anything that the public wanted in those days: turn it into what they did not want and then they would stop using it or listening to it.

After many years of disuse the organ at the was removed commencing February 6th 2006.

Mr William Dudley Savage passed away peacefully in a Liskeard nursing home early on the morning of Tuesday November 25th 2008.  He was 88 years of age.  His wife had died in December 2003 but he is survived by two sons, Peter and Anthony.

A Memorial Service in celebration of the life of Mr William Dudley Savage, and in remembrance of his wife of over 63 years, Doreen May, was held at Plymouth's Saint Andrew's Church at 2.30pm on Saturday February 7th 2009.  The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Brian Vincent; the Chairman of Devon County Council, Councillor Brian Rawlinson; and the Mayor of Penzance, Councillor Roy Mann, were among the large gathering.

 A memorial service in celebration of the life of William Dudley Savage.


The service was conducted by the Reverend Nick McKinnel, Rector of Saint Andrew's, and began with a recording of Dudley playing the "As Prescribed" signature tune of "Smiling Through".  There followed memories, music and tributes from his eldest son, Mr Peter Savage, Mr Jonathan Mann, Mr Will Light, Mr Bill Moore, Mr Andrew Teague, and Mr Stephen Dutfield.  His daughter-in-law, Mrs Sue Savage, gave a reading and sang a song composed by Dudley for his wife while he was serving in India during the Second World War.

It was revealed that the last piece of music he ever played on an organ was "Her Name is Mary", which he dedicated to his wife, and a recording of that moment brought the celebration to an end.