Joe Gooch remembers his father, a violinist in The Royal Artillery Band and a subscriber to The Strad for over 70 years

Dvid and Daphne Gooch

Photo: Joe Gooch

David Gooch on the violin, with his wife Daphne on the piano

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My father, David Ernest Gooch, who, as well as being a violinist playing in The Royal Artillery Band, (and once played in front of Winston Churchill, more on that later!) I believe he may also have been The Strad’s longest running subscriber.

David began subscribing to The Strad in 1951, and continued right up until his passing on 30 December 2023. He was 91.David also had an extensive collection of old back issues of The Strad, predating his subscription.

David was a violinist up until his late 70s, when losing his hearing meant, sadly, he could no longer play. He also repaired and rehaired violin bows for music shops, schools and private customers for nearly 40 years. 

When he was a boy, David’s uncle Albert Mills, played the violin, and his wife Vera used to pester David to take up the violin himself, but he had no particular interest.

David eventually relented, and started having lessons, but his heart wasn’t really in it and he wasn’t practising as often as he should, and was on the verge of giving it up.

One day, however, David turned on the radio to hear an amazing piece of violin music, which blew his mind! He said, he didn’t know a violin could sound like that.

Sadly, he never knew what the piece of music was, but nevertheless it inspired him and spurned him on to practise more and more. At his next violin lesson, his teacher, Eric Bass, was amazed at the change in David’s playing.

This change proved very timely, as Eric said, he was going to suggest this lesson that David should give up the violin as it was wasting his parent’s money and Eric’s time as David wasn’t practising or progressing.

David’s passion for playing the violin grew, and by the time he was 18, he had won a place in the National Youth Orchestra and scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. 

Unfortunately, conscription meant David had to go into the army for two years. Not wanting to give up playing the violin for the two years he would be in the army, David instead signed up for five years, so that he could join The Royal Artillery Band, which would mean he could continue playing the violin and would also learn to play the clarinet, as he would need to play an instrument with which he could march.  

When David was in the Royal Artillery Band between 1951 and December 1955, he, along with eleven other band members, would play violin at the opening of The Royal Academy’s summer exhibition. During one of these events, as he was playing, he was suddenly aware of someone standing close behind him. 

He turned slightly to see who it was. It was Winston Churchill! ’Blimey! It’s Winston Churchill!,’ David thought, taken aback, but after the initial shock, he thought to himself, ‘Hold on, what am I worried about, Churchill doesn’t know anything about playing the violin,’ and he carried on playing.  After leaving the army, David went to work for Islington council as a senior election officer, a job he would continue for 36 years.

He thought to himself, ‘Hold on, what am I worried about, Churchill doesn’t know anything about playing the violin,’ and he carried on playing

David used to play in a little orchestra in Hackney in the early 1960s. One day, the man with whom he happened to be sharing a music stand asked David if he was interested in playing in a quartet, that he himself could no longer continue playing with due to other commitments. He told David it was a quartet run by a Peter Coutts in Acton and he gave him Peter’s phone number. 

David went along to the quartet and after a few weeks he met Sylvia, Peter’s future wife, who introduced David to her best friend Daphne, who sang in the London Choral Society and played piano. Daphne and David got to know each other, and sharing a mutual love of classical music, they went to Dartington, for a music weekend with Peter and Sylvia.

At one point, Daphne was walking ahead of David and he remembered thinking, ’I’m going to marry that girl.’ They married on 15 August 1964, had four children, Catherine, David, Philip and Joseph, and continued playing music, with David on violin and Daphne accompanying on piano. They were together until Daphne passed away on 12 December 2013.

So had it not been for the violin, David would never have met and married Daphne, and myself, my brothers, sister, nieces nephew and great nieces and nephew would not exist!

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