William Dudley Savage MBE (20 March 1920 – 25 November 2008) was a British organist and broadcaster who for many years broadcast a hospital request programme from the Royal (ABC) cinema in Plymouth. He both introduced and played requests on the Royal organ. When it was axed, the resultant petition was said at the time to be the largest the BBC had ever encountered.
Savage was born on 20 March 1920 near Penzance, in the village of Gulval. His mother played the organ there in the village church and taught him in their home how to play the piano. He moved on to study the organ under the instruction of organists at Truro Cathedral and with other instructors in Cornwall and Plymouth.
Theatre organist and soldier
In 1938, as an 18-year-old, he was chosen as the organist for the ABC Royal Cinema in Plymouth which had been constructed that year and included a Compton theatre organ with eight ranks of pipes plus a Compton Melotone unit. With a break for military service, he remained at the ABC organ until the cinema was converted into a bingo hall in 1976.
World War II: Savage was called up for military service in 1940, serving in India. He was a lance bombardier prior to being commissioned as a second lieutenant on 12 August 1943, later rising to the rank of captain. After his discharge from military service in 1946, he returned to his position at Royal Cinema.
As Prescribed on BBC Radio
His hospital request radio programme As Prescribed started in June 1948 as a weekly broadcast from ABC's Royal Cinema in Plymouth. Savage not only presented the hour-long show, but played requests on the organ from listeners who were sick in hospital or housebound. After the BBC cancelled the show following the 22 September 1968 broadcast, more than 43,000 signatures were collected on a petition submitted to the BBC, in addition to letters sent to the Chairman of Governors of the BBC and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The petition was submitted, accompanied by protesters carrying banners in what was described as "perhaps the biggest demonstration of its kind the BBC has known". After a brief hiatus, the BBC reinstated it as a monthly show in 1969, continuing As Prescribed for another decade, and later moving the programme to Radio 2. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1978 Queen's Birthday Honours.
Death and eulogies
He went on concert tours throughout the UK and Europe, displaying for his audiences what author and organist Jonathan Mann described as "an incredibly distinctive style with a particular gift for harmony."
In response to his death, the Cinema Organ Society eulogised Savage as someone who had "delighted organ fans up and down the country as well as in Europe" and as "one of the last surviving organists from the great days when cinema organs were to be heard constantly on the wireless".
- "Dudley Savage—Organist whose BBC Radio programme was so popular that 43,000 complained when it was axed". The Daily Telegraph. 28 November 2008. Retrieved 28 November 2008.
- "Organist Dudley Savage dies at 88: veteran BBC radio broadcaster Dudley Savage MBE has died at the age of 88 in Cornwall after a long illness". BBC News. 25 November 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
- History, The Blackheath Halls Compton organ. Accessed 26 November 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 26 November 1943. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
- BBC Music Programmes, whirligig-tv.co.uk. 26 Accessed November 2008.
- James, Francis. "As Prescribed — by public demand!", Radio Times, 19 December 1968. Accessed 26 November 1968.
- The London Gazette: . 26 November 1943. Retrieved 28 November 2008.