Monday, 25 May 2009

The Man with the Golden Voice

Almost everyone who has provided input for We Could Possibly Comment has commented about Ian's voice.

He was a master at conveying menace.

Let's face it, he was a master of conveying anything with that wonderful instrument.

The comment about Ian's voice from the contributors to the book that left the biggest impression upon me came during an interview I conducted with Alex Jennings, in his dressing room at the National Theatre in August 2007. Alex was telling me about Ian taking part in a charity Carol Concert in St Paul's Cathedral the December before he died.

Alex recalled, 'He read the lesson and opened the proceedings. My partner said that it was like there was suddenly a Rolls Royce driving down the centre aisles of St Paul’s Cathedral and it was the voice of God. '

It was always such a delight to listen to Ian speaking. It didn't really matter what he was saying - his eloquent enunciation of even the most mundane of phrases was a treat to hear. And his voice was so utterly distinctive that you often knew he was in the vicinity long before he strode into a room.

And he wasn't averse to correcting my pronounciation. I recall going to Malvern with my parents where Ian was appearing in the stage play The Creeper. Ian and Maroussia had just celebrated their 45th Wedding Anniversary there and we'd popped down to visit them. Since there was every likelihood that we'd be having a drink or two afterwards, we'd taken a taxi to the theatre from our hotel, which was a few miles outside the town.

We'd sat in the hotel foyer for a while, having a couple of drinks and catching up, and it was time for us to head back to our hotel - and let Ian and Maroussia get back to where they were staying so that he wasn't getting to bed too late, with two performances to get through the next day.

Ian went over to the bar to ask them to order a taxi for us, and asked me where we were staying. 'We're staying at the Malvern Hills Hotel', I said - with my best Glaswegian diction pronouncing the 'a' in 'Malvern' as in 'apple'. The barman seemed a little puzzled. Ian looked somewhat disdainfully at me and turned to the barman and said, 'Can you please order a taxi to go to the 'Malvern Hills Hotel' - of course he pronounced the 'a' beautifully and correctly as in 'all'.

Here is another example of that top of the range Rolls Royce of voices - with grateful thanks to Toddyfins for making these clips from Six Centuries of Verse available on YouTube.


  1. Nice anecdote! And great clips!

    I can only say that, as a writer, having Ian read your words was a wonderful experience - in my case elevating them to a level that they scarcely deserved! The luxury of listening to him record them for a day left me awed and elated.

  2. Yes, it was always a dream of mine to one day hear Ian speak words written by me. Alas, it wasn't to be.
    The two full-length scripts I wrote had characters in them I envisaged Ian playing and although nothing came of them,I'll always be able to envisage him in the roles within my imagination.

  3. Excellent blog Sharon. I'll be following this and watch the video postings of Ian R and more of your inputs.

  4. Many thanks for your comments, Leela - and all the best for your book launch, being held next Thursday, June 4, at 6.30pm in Borders, Buchanan Street, Glasgow.
    You can find details of Leela's novel, Twice Born at

    Leela is a fellow member of Strathkelvin Writers.