Sound recordings

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 FRD1/11
  • Dates of Creation
      [c. 1939-Feb 1958]
  • Physical Description
      21 items. /1-20 are all recordings made on 6.3mm tape and stored on open reels. /21 is a vinyl disk recording.

Scope and Content

This class consists of a series of tapes and one disk recording made by RD. The disk is the only commercial recording; the tapes were presumably all made by RD himself or supplied to him, althoughFRD1/11/1 was also continued after his death. A number of these tapes are recordings of radio broadcasts, including some of RD's numerous poetry broadcasts, dramatisations in which he took part, recorded extracts from his films, and some short interviews. Many of the tapes are undated test recordings made by RD at home, and bear all the characteristics of home recording, such as poor quality tape, background noise and interruptions. They are valuable, however, for documenting RD's increasing interest in the reading of poetry. Many of them are practice tests for his Christmas broadcasts, and others reflect his passion for developing and perfecting his readings of specific poems over a long period, Keats's Ode to a Nightingale forming a notable example. A number of the recordings probably date from the later part of RD's life, when he found a creative release in recording poetry as asthma increasingly prevented him from acting during the 1950s. His contribution to 'The Queen's Garland', a planned but unrealised poetry tribute to celebrate the Coronation in 1953, is included, as is his contribution to the series of broadcast readings from Browning's The Ring and the Book, made during the last year of his life. The home tapes also include more informal elements, such as the Christmas greeting he recorded for his children while they were in America during the war years, and various 'testing only' sequences. There is a considerable amount of overlap in content between the tapes, reflecting different recordings of the same poems, or later recordings made from earlier tapes.


No attempt has been made to divide the recordings according to format, as all except one are in the form of open reel tapes. Where there is any evidence that sound recordings included in the archive are posthumous copies of RD's originals, the relevant recordings have been listed with the other posthumous material at FRD3/11. All the original sound recordings have been transferred for preservation purposes to modern compact cassettes by the North West Sound Archive; the recordings will only be available to readers in cassette form. The item level catalogue descriptions below record the reference number allocated to each cassette by the North West Sound Archive, which holds master copies of the recordings. This reference was in turn based on an original numerical sequence running from 47 to 78 which was imposed on the sound recordings before they came to the Library. Original order has not been maintained, as there has now been some attempt to divide the recordings into those made by RD himself, and those which were posthumous copies obtained by his son John Donat. Notes of content were inserted in a number of the original tape cases; these have now been removed and are stored with the relevant compact cassette recording for issue to readers. These notes were largely made after RD's death; they are very rough and sometimes inaccurate records of tape content.

Access Information

A number of the recordings are closed to readers for copyright reasons. Those available for use are: FRD1/11/1-4, /8, /17-18 and /20.