Gerald Howat

Writer of cricketing biographies


Gerald Malcolm David Howat, writer and schoolteacher: born Glasgow 12 June 1928; married 1951 Anne Murdoch (two sons, one daughter); died Oxford 10 October 2007.

You had to be quick to keep up with Gerald Howat. The short, staccato sentences were delivered at machine-gun pace. Usually either as statements or questions. And there were rapid changes of direction. It reflected a fecund and restless mind.

Howat was writer, journalist, schoolmaster, university lecturer, Oxbridge Board examiner, archivist and, for well over 60 years, enthusiastic club cricketer. But it took his autobiography, Cricket All My Life, delivered at breakneck speed in 2006, to bring these parts together. Cricket was a central thread. The subjects of four of his five acclaimed biographies were legends of the game – Learie Constantine, "Wally" Hammond, "Plum" Warner and Len Hutton – and the 70 entries he supplied to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) during his Associate Editorship, contained many on former players.

Born in Glasgow in 1928, Howat was the son of a Scottish Episcopalian priest. After a childhood in Girvan where he remembered seeing the ill-fated R100 airship overhead on its way to Canada and then in Dundee during the Depression, he boarded at Ardvreck in Crieff where he lost his Scots accent and became head boy. Following the award of a bursary to Glenalmond College, known as "the Eton of the North", Howat met the West Indian cricketer and later politician Learie Constantine and so began an association that had a pivotal effect on his career.

At Edinburgh University, Howat "acquired a wife [Anne, later to become a distinguished consultant psychiatrist], a degree, administrative experience [as press officer and assistant secretary of the Students' Executive Council] and a lot of friends". National Service as a Flying Officer based at RAF Titchfield was followed by a three-year spell teaching for the oil firm Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd (TLL) at their Regent School in Point-a-Pierre where Sonny Ramadhin was the firm's storekeeper.

It was the early 1950s when Britain's grip on its colonies was being loosened. In the prevalent mood of nationalism and on the way to a brief vacation in Tobago, Howat got into hot water when a remark from a complete stranger at the airport was completely misinterpreted by the Trinidad Clarion to mean that he was about to be appointed headmaster of the Bishop's High School, Tobago, in place of the existing local (and black) holder of the position who had been sacked. Learie Constantine, TLL's lawyer and by now a personal friend, came to the rescue, securing a total withdrawal of all that had been written.

Howat returned to Britain to spend five years as head of the History Department at Kelly College in Tavistock, then 14 years at Culham College of Education in Oxfordshire as principal lecturer and head of the History Department. While at Culham, he wrote, undertook a research degree on "the place of history in education" for Exeter College, Oxford, and branched out into publishing. For a time he was General Editor of the Historical Division of Pergamon Press.

He also compiled several school textbooks before accepting an invitation to act as General Editor of a Dictionary of World History, a massive undertaking which came to fruition in 1973 and meant working closely with an advisory board that included A.J.P. Taylor, Max Beloff and Asa Briggs. Not so onerous was a year with Mitchell Beazley editing an illustrated biographical dictionary, Who Did What (1974).

By now writing and literary matters claimed much of Howat's attention and interest, and a period as head of history at Radley was not entirely satisfactory, either for the school or for him. "I was not ambitious to be a headmaster and I came to resent the fact that I never had time to put pen to paper (or, more specifically, to write a book) during my years there." In 1977, a senior pastoral appointment at Lord Williams's School, Thame, provided more leisure.

When Howat "retired" in 1985, he had already written the biography of Constantine (Learie Constantine, 1977) which won the Cricket Society Jubilee Literary Award, and also those of "Wally" Hammond (Walter Hammond, 1984) and Jack Parsons (Cricketer Militant: the life of Jack Parsons, 1980). In the next few years, two former England captains were additions to the canon – Warner (Plum Warner, 1987) and Hutton (Len Hutton, 1988). But the tantalising prospect of writing the life of a third subject born in Trinidad was declined, the radical savant C.L.R. James being perhaps too far "beyond a boundary" for Howat's innate conservatism.

Howat was a member of MCC for over 40 years, but his heart was just as close – if not closer – to what he called MCC2, his local club, Moreton in Oxfordshire, where for almost 50 years he was sometime secretary and president and a keen wicket-keeper who played his last game for the club as recently as 2005.

David Rayvern Allen

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker