Archive for the 'Vernon Warner' Category


The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Dudley Vernon Steynor

Service conducted by  The Revd Canon Cavell Cavell-Northam


Dudley was born on 16 October 1909 in Malvern where he grew up with his two brothers and sister in a large family home enjoying the freedom of the Malvern Hills.  Kite flying, model aeroplanes, motor cycles and motor cars were just some of the hobbies pursued by the family.

His interest in music developed at an early age as the family were very close to Vernon Warner the young protégé pianist.

Dudley was in one of the first intakes at Stowe school and a contemporary of David Niven, Sir Nicholas Winton and Geoffrey de Haviland .  In later years he bumped into David Niven at Heathrow Airport. David recognised him immediately, which says a great deal about the Steynor profile.

On leaving Stowe he studied the piano in London at the Academy of Music   living in Kew with his brother Martyn.  Together they joined the Hounslow Flying club and learned to fly.

Following his studies at the London Academy of Music he was advised to continue studying in Europe and chose Berlin where he studied at the Edwin Fischer School, only returning due to the imminent possibility of War.

His wish to assist the war effort as a pilot was initially thwarted by poor eyesight.  Having spent some months on the ground as a Link Trainer Instructor, and following a weekend party at the house of Jumbo Edwards his Commanding Officer and pre war Olympic Gold Medal Rower, a further medical in London was arranged. This medical was with the Chief Medical officer of the RAF.  He proceeded to test his eyesight by initially requesting him to read the chart with his good eye and then, without changing the chart and while looking the other way, asked him to read it again!  Dudley passed.

Some months later Dudley bumped into the Chief Medical Officer, thanked him, and asked if he realised that in fact his eyesight in one eye was really quite poor.  He replied that he knew people who could see perfectly and were quite lethal in the air and some people, like  Dudley, who might not have perfect eyesight but were  excellent pilots. As one who spent his time on the ground he would prefer people like Dudley above him!

The outcome of this was a posting to Booker Airfield as an Instructor in charge of B Flight where he spent the rest of the war. Here he met Ann who was assisting the war effort by helping with the tea wagon along with two of the sisters of King Zog of Albania who was living in exile at Parmoor here in Frieth.  Dudley and Ann were married in 1943.

On being de-mobbed Dudley decided that a career as a concert pianist was no longer an option and proceeded to devote his energies to designing and developing various ideas.  The first of these was the Verdik Petrol Economiser which made significant improvements to the petrol consumption of the cars of the day, and was widely acclaimed by the motoring press.

There followed  a humane rat trap which he designed at the request of his uncle in Birmingham who owned a hardware shop and it was the mesh of this trap that led to his next significant development.

A famous burns’ surgeon was staying with the Hon Mrs James in Lane End and on seeing one of the traps announced this was just the mesh needed to make guards to protect children from the horrendous burns suffered as a result of accidents with electric fires.  Dudley came up with a suitable design and as a result was kept busy for a few years supplying the electricity companies and then gas companies with guards to fit to all their various models. It was not long however before the manufacturers started incorporating guards at the manufacturing stage bringing this market to a close.   Guards for open fires were a further development and these carried on selling for a number of years.

Dudley and Ann started their married life at The Cottage, Lane End next to the old Chapel on Moor Common.  William was born here in 1948.

In 1951 they moved to Colliers Corner on the day of the birth of their daughter Linden who Dudley delivered in the absence of the midwife who had not yet arrived.  Dudley always said he was not phased by this as he had been in the Boy Scouts!!!

The family was completed by the arrival of James in 1956.

Although continuing throughout his working life with his inventions he decided that with a growing family to support he needed a more stable income. This led to his ownership of Goodchild’s Garage in Lane End and then a Daf Dealership.  Soon Dafs could be seen wherever you looked!

Among his many and varied interests steam always held a fascination. The purchase of an Avelling & Porter Steamroller gave the local community a much loved landmark as he kept it next to the road outside his house.

In 1964 he was tempted back to flying when William started gliding at Booker, now Wycombe Air Park. Dudley was soon recognised as an excellent pilot and instructor and he continued enjoying his gliding in retirement up to the age of 84.

In early 1981 disaster struck. There were extensive power cuts across the area as a result of a heavy snow fall. Dudley had taken Ann out to get a hot meal when the power was restored. The resultant surge caused a fire in Colliers Corner and they returned to find five fire crews doing their best to get it under control. They had lost nearly everything they owned.

Undaunted, a mobile home was bought and placed at the bottom of the garden for them to live in. The initial clearing of the site was carried out by two young men who were keen to earn some money between their training sessions at Marlow Rowing Club. A number of local tradesmen were engaged to rebuild the house and by the spring of 1982 they were able to return. As a thank you for all the hard work Dudley took the two rowers gliding. In the years that followed he watched with great interest the developing career of one of those rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave.

Following the death of his wife Ann in 1996 he returned to his music and at the grand age of 87 produced two CDs of his favourite piano pieces.

Latterly he kept himself fit by doing at least 10 minutes a day on his exercise bike and completing fiendish Soduko puzzles until only a few months before his death.

His 100th birthday was a milestone he wanted to achieve. He thoroughly enjoyed his day which many here I am sure will remember as it brought Lane End to a standstill!

“Elle chante très bien derrière”

How interesting it is that a few words in a foreign language can take one back to a moment 80 years ago with a far greater clarity than one can remember yesterday’s date.

I was about 18 years old at the time and even half the words in the above quote will take me back with pleasure to a moment I will never forget.

In August 1927 Vernon Warner’s family had joined ours f or the summer holiday of four weeks. We were on our way through France to Switzerland in our two cars – Vernon’s Chrysler and father’s open 5-seater Buick. There was no need to book stopping places in those days and seeing a notice of a restaurant and Hotel a few miles ahead we thought we would make our night-stop there. It was a lovely evening for eating outside and the proprietor suggested we waited while he prepared a special meal for us. A few minutes later we heard a chicken squark and the proprietor returned to tell us he was cooking a chicken meal which would be ready soon!

When this arrived it was getting dark so we pointed our cars at the tables outside and enjoyed a lovely meal in the lights of our cars’ headlamps.

While we were eating there was the sound of an approaching sports car and a young French couple called in for a drink and a snack. The car was a Bugatti with an enormous exhaust pipe. We made friends and discovered he was a famous opera singer. When they had finished eating he suddenly broke into song. He had a lovely voice and listening to it in the open air under the cars’ headlamps was a scene I will never forget. They were moving on and as we bid them farewell Vernon pointed to the Bugatti with the words that started this reminiscence.

Early music interest

Several years before I was born a boy pianist about 8 years old gave a recital at the Malvern Assembly Rooms. My father’s family heard him and were so impressed they invited him and his parents back home for tea – and so began a friendship which stretched far into the future. That boy was Vernon Varner. At that early age he already had a formidable piano technique and played many of Chopin’s Etudes. His family were not well off and may father’s family helped them by taking Vernon on holidays abroad – a habit maintained long after I arrived on the scene. I grew up amidst sound of music – especially Chopin – superbly played. My father’s mother – my grandma – was also a talented self-taught musician with a gift for improvisation. All my early years were spent listening to the best of music superbly played and, as I appeared to have an aptitude for the piano in any case, it became a large part of my life. At 13 I remember hearing de Pachmann at the Assembly Rooms and loving his effortless runs in Chopin’s Impromptu in G flat. Afterwards my father introduced me to him as a second Vernon Warner – that’s optimism for you! – and Pachmann examining my hands. “They are no good; fingers too long”! In my old age I would agree with him. Pachmann and Edwin Fischer both had short-fingered hands and both possessed that ability to play whisper-quiet completely even runs up and down the keyboard which I have heard in no other pianists. When I left Stowe at 17 I went to live at Kew and became a pupil of Vernon Warner and actually moved into his house there with him and his wife Paddy. At 25 I gave my first public recital in Malvern and I remember playing Triana – that lovely and extremely difficult piece by Albeniz. I was passionately fond of Chopin, which was natural as a pupil of Vernon Warner. His Chopin was unique. The only other artist in the running was Cortot whose memory and accuracy was not so good. I remember a pupil complaining to Vernon about this and Vernon’s reply “I would rather hear Cortot playing wrong notes than most pianists’ right ones!”

Vernon’s Beethoven was not good and he thought it essential that I should obtain a good training in the more classical side of music which he felt he couldn’t provide. I was to go to Berlin and study at the Edwin Fischer School. So off I went in 1935 for two years in Berlin. My teacher was Conrad Hanson who often took over Fischer’s main class during his absence giving recitals. Hanson’s first words to me were “Each week I want you to prepare a Bach Prelude and Fugue from the 48, a movement from a Beethoven Sonata and a Chopin Etude.” This, I knew was impossible because I was almost dyslexic when it came to reading music. My training under Vernon Warner had stressed towards the perfecting of each phrase in timing, tone, rhythm and touch backed up with many hours of finger exercises (Hanson and others) to strengthen finger mussels and finger independence. Reading music fluency did not come into the category. But later on when I found it embarrassing when I found I couldn’t accompany a singer in even a simple song, and I decided to remedy this failure I could not do so. I am dyslexic as far as music reading goes. I am not alone in this. One of my friends in Berlin was Pablo Castellanos, a sixteen old boy who had come direct from 4 years at the Cortot school in Paris and, in my opinion was the best pianist in Fischer’s master class. I had permission to attend this class and I remember Fischer asking Pablo to accompany another pupil in a Beethoven Concerto and Pablo’s “I’m sorry Herr Doctor I cannot read music” “Well you’d better learn” from Fischer. With the result that Pablo and I spent hours together at a piano with volumes of piano duets trying to make sense of them, but with minimum result. With hindsight I think my time in Berlin was a mistake. I never really understood or loved Beethoven and I can assure you Fischer never understood Chopin. Maybe there is another aspect to these two years.

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