Brief Biography of Roy Ward Dickson
Born Richard Louis del Valle, on August 18, 1910 in London, England, Roy hailed from a long line of Jewish diamond cutters, artists and musicians. While his grandfather cut diamonds, his father, Jaap del Valle, was a child violin prodigy at the Amsterdam Conservatorium. Even as a youth, Roy's father enjoyed the success of being a frequent violin soloist at the Concertgebouw. When his grandfather, Isaac del Valle, retired from diamond cutting, he and his wife moved to the UK. It was in London that Roy spent a lonely early childhood listening to hours of Jaap's violin practice. While little is known of his biological mother, Flora, his step-mother, Dorothea — who arrived in his life at the age of four — was a concert pianist.
Both parents enjoyed successful careers in the music world, but had little time or inclination for parenthood. Even the arrival of half-brother Ronnie, when Roy was eight, did little to alleviate his loneliness. Thus, left to his own distractions — as he states in his autobiography — Roy spent countless hours reading "everything I could lay my little fat hands on — schoolbooks, library books, newspapers, magazines." By the time he was eleven, he'd read through all twenty-four volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, having some years earlier thoroughly studied the substantial family dictionary, poring over the spelling of every word.
Roy's precociousness did not endear him to his teachers or school mates and he was expelled and/or threatened with removal from one school after another. As a scholarship student at the prestigious St. Paul's School, Roy felt isolated and unable to endure the endless taunts and jibes that had accompanied him throughout his school years. These became more than he could bear and he became truant from school, spending his days studying. The outcome of his five-week school boycott was a letter of concern re his absence from the High Master. It was the last straw. His parents thought him incorrigible and announced that he was to be sent to "the Colonies" for "a few years of hard work to make a man out of you!"
And so our young man made the choice of Canada over Australia, left England and began his journey from farm hand to college student, private school teacher, abbatoir chemist, meat packer, fisherman, depression-era welfare recipient, quiz man, ad man with advertising puzzles and quizzes, and onto huge celebrity and success in Canadian and British radio and television.
Roy was married twice. He had two children with his first wife, Helen, and three with his second wife, Shirley. He retired in the late 1960s, to Victoria, BC. He passed away on September 16, 1978. For more information on his remarkable career, see our pages about Roy's professional life.