John Dudley Holroyd: [Heath 1944–1951]

Dudley Holroyd, the organist and master of choristers at Bath Abbey from 1967–1985, died of cancer in Bath on , aged 64.

He was born in Halifax on and never lost his Yorkshire directness. He was an only child; his father was an office clerk while his mother had worked in a mill. Although non-conformists, Dudley sang as a boy in the choir at Halifax Parish Church. After attending Heath Grammar School he studied chemistry to degree level on day-release courses while spending the first seven years of his working life in the laboratory of the corporation sewage works at Salterhebble.

Despite coming from a non-musical background, he always had a keen ear. He used to recall how, as a child, he played a game imitating an organist pulling out the organ stops. He often travelled to York to listen to and to get to know the legendary Francis Jackson, organist at York Minster, who regularly allowed young Dudley into the organ loft and, unknown to the worshippers below, would slip aside to allow Dudley to play the final verse of a hymn.

In his twenties Dudley studied for the Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists in the evening and graduated in music from Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of 27. He also held the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Diploma in Church Music and in 1984 completed an MA at Birmingham University where his thesis was on the six organ symphonies of Louis Vierne.

He was first appointed organist at All Souls Church, Haley Hill, Halifax, and after further appointments in Leeds and Hastings moved in 1964 to High Wycombe Parish Church where he also became director of music at Aylesbury Grammar School before moving to the post at Bath Abbey in 1967.

The Abbey’s music was then at a low ebb and he raised standards and extended the repertoire. Although the Abbey had no choir school, he made it his business to seek local talent and turned several generations of local schoolboys into fine musicians.

After leaving the Abbey in 1985, he taught at the college of higher education in Bath and conducted various choirs and local orchestras. As director of music of Wells Cathedral voluntary choir, he set up the Association of Cathedral Voluntary Choirs, an organisation established to deputise during choir holidays at the leading Anglican cathedrals.

He made several recordings on the organ of Bath Abbey and oversaw its renovation in 1971. He also performed at the annual British Legion Service of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall and appeared on ITV’s Sunday religious programme, Highway, with Sir Harry Secombe.

His first marriage in 1958 to Dorothy Cockroft was dissolved and in 1988 he married Patricia Hayler. He is survived by her and by the two sons of his first marriage. The Heath Old Boys Association sends its deepest sympathy to them on their sad loss.

First appeared in the Newsletter dated .