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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor