Doctor Who star William Hartnell’s Desert Island Discs recording found by the BBC

The programme recorded by the first Time Lord reveals that the actor chose cigarettes as his luxury as the BBC announces it will be archiving new finds including the discovery of the choices by musician Louis Armstrong and actress Diana Rigg

He was the first man to have the keys to the Tardis and now the BBC has managed to perform its own time-bending trick with the discovery of William Hartnell’s Desert Island Discs.


The actor’s 1965 recording of the Radio 4 programme in which well-known figures choose their eight favourite records plus a book and a luxury has been discovered by a listener who kept a personal copy of the programme.

It is among a treasure trove of four new finds from the radio show that will be added to the BBC’s existing online archive.

The other discoveries are recordings by jazz musician Louis Armstrong, actress Diana Rigg and Thomas the Tank Engine creator, the Reverend W Awdry.

Hartnell was interviewed in 1965 by then host Roy Plomley but a section of the programme is missing.

The recording, which will be uploaded to the BBC’s Desert Island Discs archive this weekend, reveals that his favourite piece of music was The Spring Song from A King in New York by Charlie Chaplin. This is the recording that, under the rules of the programme, he is obliged to name as the one he would most like to take.

His book choice was the rather austere English Social History by G M Trevelyan. And, perhaps in a sign of less health-conscious times, he chose as his luxury a supply of cigarettes.

Musician Louis Armstrong’s personal copy of his Desert Island Discs appearance from 1968 has also been added to the online archive, which was launched in 2011.

His edition was brought to light by a listener who knew a copy of the programme existed in the US. The production team tracked this down, only to discover it was the trumpeter’s own copy that was gifted to him by the BBC after recording the programme 47 years ago.

His choices reflect the tastes a man who seems to like himself. His favourite track was one his own – Blueberry Hill by Louis Armstrong and his All Stars. Armstrong’s book choice was his autobiography and his luxury was a trumpet.

Thomas the Tank Engine creator Reverend W Awdry – interviewed in 1964 by Plomley – chose Baal, We Cry to Thee by Felix Mendelssohn as his favourite piece of music. His book choice was Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and his luxury choice was writing materials.

Diana Rigg, interviewed in 1970, chose as her favourite piece of music Trois Gymnopédies by Erik Satie. Her book choice was Primary Instruction in all Languages and her luxury choice was a vegetable garden.

Kirsty Young, current presenter of Desert Island Discs, said of the new finds: “The Desert Island Discs archive is something of a broadcasting treasure trove, with castaways offering so many fascinating insights about their extraordinary lives, not to mention their often quirky disc choices, books and luxuries. Unearthing yet more recordings and adding them to our archive is great news not just for the much-valued listeners we have now but for listeners of the future too.”


Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs began 73 years ago and is one of the longest-running interview programmes in the world. Last November it celebrated its 3000th edition.