David Poultney

David Poultney

An RCM Friend and Patron, Chelsea Pensioner David Poultney has a great love for music, a bullish energy for life and a strong belief in supporting causes close to his heart.

In 2010, he and six other Chelsea Pensioners at the Royal Hospital released an album in order to raise money for the Chelsea Pensioners’ Appeal: “Men in Scarlet” sold more than 100,000 copies and helped fund the building of new accommodation for the retired soldiers.


When did your love of music begin?

I’ve always been interested in music and first started singing when I was just four years old. I’m Welsh, you see, singing is what we do! If you say to a Welshman: “Sing!”, he’ll sing. An Englishman would be too timid! You know, music is the most important thing in a Welshman’s life.

There’s a saying: “To be born Welsh is to be born privileged. Not with a silver spoon in your mouth, but music in your heart and poetry in your soul.”


Can you tell me about recording the album Men in Scarlet?

It was a very hectic time. We’re old men and had to be out of here at half past seven in the morning, tearing off to some recording studio. But we got to sing with some great people – Dame Vera Lynn, Katherine Jenkins – they were both super. I’ve got some lovely photos of us all with them too.

It was Warner Music who were behind the CD – they’d previously produced The Soldiers and most recently did Military Wives. Our CD got to number 14 in the charts and we even got a Gold Disc – my daughters were so excited about that. In fact my daughter Rosemary took it back with her to America where she lives.


Do you have a favourite song on the disc?

No, I’d sing anything! But I did get to sing “Danny Boy” as a solo. We were just waiting around in the studio and I saw a book open with the music. I just started singing and the producers said they’d like to put it on the record.


You do a lot of work raising money for charities, why is that?

I enjoy collecting for charities – last year I raised more than £5,000 for the Royal British Legion selling poppies at Charing Cross railway station. I also collect for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the Army Benevolent Fund and the Institute of Cancer Research. I like keeping busy, and I enjoy going out and talking to people.

And because I’m Welsh, I also enjoy supporting musical causes: I support the RCM’s Restore a Score – it has to be done – and I support the Welsh Singer of the Year competition.


What do you enjoy about visiting the RCM?

It’s part of my ritual. My friend John is 92, a real old boy, but he’s fit and has medals in all directions. We enjoy coming to the College together when we can. I enjoy hearing the Symphony Orchestra, and that wonderful feeling as they come out on stage. I remember one concert where they had six harps, my favourite instrument. I also like brass instruments and seeing how much the students enjoy playing. I like looking at them and thinking: “they’re going to be famous one day!”. And I also like that they come from all over the world – from Japan to America.


And you have an unusual connection with the RCM's Britten Theatre?

Yes, I left the army when I was 30 and went to work on ‘Civvy Street’. One of my jobs was working as the Office Manager for a firm of architects, one of whom was Sir Hugh Casson, who later designed the Britten Theatre.


What’s life like as a pensioner at the Royal Hospital?

I used to live in a very small room, 9ft by 9ft, with no windows. But now I’m in a newly built room with an en suite, there’s so much more space. Not that I’m always in my room – I stay busy! There are always lots of activities going on here and I’m also often out in my scarlet coat representing the hospital – particularly collecting for charities and meeting people – I’ve met Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron… I think it’s so important to be busy.

My advice is: start something you’re never going to finish – then you’ll always have something to do!

In memory of David Poultney who passed away in October 2013.

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Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS. Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300 Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS.
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