Local Face: Peter Dorling

Peter playing the organ at Fulmer Church

Peter Dorling fell in love with “the Wireless” as a child and became an avid listener to every genre of radio programme. From an early age he set his sights on joining the BBC and after his National Service in the Royal Corps of Signals at the age of 20, two unsuccessful attempts didn’t deter him from trying a third time. He finally joined the ranks of the BBC as a junior technician in 1956. This was the start of a 40-year career with the BBC, where he became a familiar face reading the TV news.

Peter became one of the youngest-ever radio announcers, working alongside famous wartime news readers, and still has a charming, sonorous BBC voice. While doing sound effects, like rattling the teacups on Mrs Dale’s Diary, he was cautioned by his boss that his career wouldn’t blossom unless he moved into television before he was 30.

Over the next 25 years he took on various roles in Television News, as producer, reporter, interviewer, film director and programme anchor man. Peter’s face became well known reading the news and covering politics. He even had an office in the Houses of Parliament, where he identified newsworthy stories from Parliamentary debates. He covered five general elections, presenting BBC2’s coverage each night of the campaigns. Then came the Falklands War and the two Gulf Wars which he helped cover from the London newsroom.

Peter’s experience was so wide that he was prized as a trainer within the BBC, shaping journalists into the very best, for which the BBC was famed. As he was about to retire, he was spotted by representatives of the Singapore Television Station, a government institution, who wanted advice on how to present its policies to viewers, in a way which didn’t seem like government propaganda. For nine years in the 1990s, in three-month stints, Peter, accompanied by his wife Isobel, trained Singaporean journalists in the art of balanced TV news reporting. It went down very well and some of his trainees are now top Government Ministers. He remembers his time in Singapore fondly, as a place of garishly colourful noisy markets, spicy food and the most efficient transport system.

Isobel arranged trips for them both, all over South East Asia, which became a precursor to the next adventure in their lives. Peter was invited to take up guest lecturing on cruise ships, while Isobel took the role as Ship’s Escort, making sure the tours went according to plan. Over the next ten years, they did some 50 cruises taking them all over the world, visiting 80 countries. Peter gave 200 expertly-produced, illustrated lectures on the history of the BBC, and other newsworthy topics of the time, and became something of a celebrity on board.

They were rarely at their home in Gerrards Cross, but Peter found time to sing bass with the choir of St James’ Church, as well as being relief organist at nearby Fulmer Church. He was also, for many years, a member of the local South Bucks Choral Society. Meanwhile, Isobel taught maths at St Mary’s School in Gerrards Cross and was finance governor at the village school in Fulmer for 40 years.

One of their two daughters lived in Wendover with her family and had always been singing Wendover’s praises. So, when the time came to downsize, it was a natural destination to move to Wendover. Unfortunately, Isobel became ill shortly after their move, and passed away before making what would certainly have been her usual valued contribution to the local community. Nevertheless, Peter says he very much enjoys living in Wendover, with its excellent facilities and family within walking distance. Now aged 87, he still frequents local cafés and restaurants, so if you recognise him, do say hello.