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

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on Scotland's oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
Sport
footballThe latest scores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Man City and Chelsea vs Schalke
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week