Lance Dossor - Tony Cunnane's Afterthoughts

Tony Cunnane's Afterthoughts
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Lance Dossor

Written on 23 February 2010

On 19 February 1953, I wrote in my diary that Dad had helped me to fill in my very first Income Tax return that had arrived in that morning’s post – we always did things by return of post in those days! It would have been very simple to fill in. At that period, I had a temporary job with the West Riding County Council Licensing Department in St John’s, Wakefield. I earned £3 7s 3d gross per week (decimal equivalent £3.37). There was a deduction of three shillings and five pence (17p) for National Health Insurance and I paid one shilling per week (5p) Income Tax. After five weeks the Inland Revenue sent me a postal order for five shillings (25p) tax refund!

On 21 February I went for one of my regular solo bicycle rides. I battled in the cold against very strong, biting head winds to Denby Dale, in the rolling foothills of the Pennines (the location since 1973 for the long-running TV series “Last of the Summer Wine”). From there I turned south east to Barnsley and then north again back to Wakefield. I covered the 32 miles in 2 hours and wrote that I was totally exhausted when I got home. I remember the ride in great detail even today – the headwinds seemed to follow me every time I changed direction. The Pennines can be like that.

I went to the Wakefield Playhouse the following afternoon, 22 February 1953 (see scan above of my 1,149th diary entry - I can spell address correctly these days!) for a concert by the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra: Lance Dossor was the soloist in Grieg’s Piano Concerto and the concert ended with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. After the concert, when the final applause had barely died away, I made my way onto the stage to talk to one of the violinists in the orchestra. (Shyness was never one of my faults!) I remember that conversation very well. I explained my personal situation and the violinist gave me the name and address of a violin teacher he could recommend. He also suggested I might like to consider changing to viola since there was always a shortage of good viola players. I told him I had already thought of that myself. (Lack of tact was one of my faults then – but not now)

When I spoke to my parents the following day about the concert, Dad told me that they needed to sell our piano, which had been purchased a few years earlier to help me with my music studies at Salford Grammar School. I suddenly realised that my parents were very short of money, so I made no mention of violin, or viola lessons, and said I was happy for them to sell the piano. Of course, I didn’t know then that less than six months later I would enlist in the RAF and stay in uniform for the next 47 years. I never had another violin lesson.

Above: I took this pic of the Wakefield Playhouse on 20 October 2007 - when it was obviously not at its pristine best!

One undated reference I found on the Internet said that “the Wakefield Playhouse exterior is easily recognisable, making a handsome presence on Westgate, with its close neighbour the Opera House.” That must have been a long time ago because when I took my pic of the Wakefield Playhouse on 20 October 2007 (above) it was obviously not at its pristine best!

In 2010, while I was scanning my diaries, I went searching for information on Lance Dossor – a name I only vaguely remembered. He was born Harry Lancelot Dossor in Weston-Super-Mare in 1916. It seems he himself used to tell the story about his introduction to Sergei Rachmaninoff, the great pianist and composer who was in London for a series of concerts and recitals. Another famous British pianist, Cyril Smith, made the introductions. Cyril introduced Lance as “a very promising young pianist who has recently been successful in the Chopin prize competition in Warsaw, Poland”. Rachmaninoff responded, cruelly, in his heavy Russian accent “Ah, but who were the judges?”

Lance Dossor had emigrated to Australia a few weeks after I heard him in Wakefield’s Playhouse, and he remained there until he retired in 1979. He died in Adelaide in 2005.
 
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