We were saddened to hear of the death of cellist and teacher William “Bill” Roskelly on 24th February, aged 97.

William Roskelly

William – known to all his friends as Bill – began cello lessons at the age of 7 and won a scholarship to the RCM in 1928, aged 19. However his studies were interrupted in 1940 when he signed up with the RAF Volunteer Reserve along with many of his classmates. Bill was posted to 217 Squadron at RAF St Eval in Cornwall, part of Coastal Command.  His active service took him to the Shetland Islands, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Rhodesia, South Africa and finally to Ceylon. Only 3% of this sqadron made it through two tours of operations and so Bill was immensely lucky to survive 6 years of service as a gunner/navigator and then as a pilot – despite several crashes!


Bill resumed his studies in 1946 and, needing to have financial stability, he abandoned his plans to become a soloist and instead managed to secure a position wit the LSO, and also played with the Royal Opera House orchestra – a punishing schedule. In 1953 he took a sabbatical year in order to further his cello studies under Pablo Casals in France, and after 10 years with the LSO – and with a young family to provide for – Bill decided to turn to teaching.


After initially working in Staffordshire he accepted a position as Music Advisor in the London Borough of Newham, a post he held until 1984, when he performed the slow movement of the Elgar Concerto to mark his retirement. In 2015 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from ESTA.


We will be printing a more detailed article about Bill’s fascinating life in the June edition of Arco.