John Thaw on Desert Island Discs: 9th October 1990.


Desert Island Discs is a radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Each week a guest, called a ‘castaway’ during the programme, is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island, whilst discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices. More than 3,000 episodes have been recorded.

Below the recording I have noted each of the tracks John Thaw has chosen and where possible I have included the music via a Youtube video. Some of John’s choices you will recognise as having been used in the Inspector Morse and Endeavour series. To that end I have made notes below the Youtube videos regarding connections to the Morse or Endeavour series. Enjoy.

1 Jean Sibelius – Symphony No. 5 in E flat major.

2. Giacomo Puccini – In questa Reggia (from Turandot)

3. Edward Elgar – Cello Concerto in E minor – 1st movement Soloist: Jacqueline Du Pre

4. Franz Schubert – String Quintet in C major – 2nd movement

Of course all Morse fans recognize this piece. It was used in the Inspector Morse episode Dead on Time which was not aired until February 1992. Did John Thaw choose this for the episode?

Of course, more recently the musical piece turns up in the Endeavour episode, Lazaretto, (Series 4, Episode 3)

5. Sheila Hancock – Little Girls (from Annie)

6. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – The Magic Flute Overture.

The music from Mozart’s The Magic Flute was used extensively in the Morse episode, Masonic Mysteries. That episode was aired on January 1990.

7. Richard Strauss – Beim Schlafengehen (from Four Last Songs)

8. Johann Sebastian Bach – St Matthew Passion – Erbarme dich

Different sections of Bach’s St Matthew Passion have been heard not only in the original Morse series but also in the more recent Endeavour series:

Inspector Morse – Who Killed Harry Field and Absolute Conviction.

Endeavour – Trove, Sway and Neverland.


Author: Chris Sullivan

Up until a few years ago I was my mum's full time carer. She died in, 2020, of Covid. At the moment I am attempting to write a novel.

13 thoughts

  1. Well, my husband and I just watched this episode and are agreement that it’s one of the worst we’ve seen. Terrible plot, ham acting and awful dialogue. What a waste of good actors! Even John Gielgud couldn’t save it. To make matters worse, neither of us spotted Colin Dexter either! Where was he?

    1. Hi Diane. I can’t decide if this is an attempt at humour, because this a radio show you have commented on and not an episode. Or, that you have left your comment on the wrong post.

      1. I think your second supposition is correct, Chris. I think that she must have been commenting on “Twilight of the Gods”.

  2. P.S. What were John’s luxury item and book? Also, which of the eight discs would he save if they were all washed out to sea?

  3. Chris, I discovered this wonderful post Desert Island Discs with John Thaw by accident and I am so glad I did. What beautiful insight into John Thaw as a person and as an actor. I found him charming, intelligent, and thoughtful,l and so like what I love about Morse. I really did not know anything about John, the man, so thank you for this post. Love the excerpts of his favorite music.

    1. Hi Kathleen. I love that you are still discovering new things on my website. I would loved to have known John.

  4. I’m wondering if John Thaw appreciated classical and operatic music as much as Morse did? Thanks

    1. Gina – the broadcast shows that John Thaw loved and appreciated classical and operatic music.

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