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Gerald Howat, schoolmaster and cricket writer

Gerald Howat

Born: 12 June, 1928, in Glasgow. Died: 10 October, 2007, in Oxford, aged 79.

GERALD Howat pursued several careers with gusto. Principally, he was a distinguished schoolmaster at several schools in England but in retirement he became involved in writing about cricket, a lifelong passion. He covered many of the schools matches for the Daily Telegraph and Wisden and wrote several best-selling books on some of the great names of the game. Indeed, one of the great England captains, Sir Leonard Hutton, asked Howat to write his official biography. Howat also penned some charming books reflecting the calmer side of the game and was a member of the MCC for more than 40 years.

Gerald Malcolm David Howat was the son of a Scottish Episcopalian minister who had parishes in Girvan and then Dundee. He spent much of his childhood in Brechin, where his father was the dean.

Howat attended Ardvreck prep school in Crieff and was then awarded a bursary, reserved for children of Episcopalian ministers, to Trinity College, Glenalmond. At both schools he showed a strong interest in sport, especially cricket.

At Ardvreck he recalled he had been enthused by the school's headmaster, who, he said, "was an imaginative man who made us play cricket matches and take the names of famous players. I was always Wally Hammond or Len Hutton. Little did I know I would go on to write both their biographies."

Cricket at Glenalmond in the war and post-war years was limited: inter-school matches were a rarity but Howat showed promise as a wicket-keeper. It was a position he would fill with enthusiasm well after the age of 70.

He returned to Perthshire often in his later career and revisited the school when in Scotland on lecture tours of various cricket clubs.

Howat read history at Edinburgh University, then did national service in the RAF. He joined Trinidad Leaseholds, an expanding oil company, and became friends with the future West Indian spin bowler Sony Ramadhin, who was the firm's storekeeper.

Back in the UK Howat joined the staff as head of history at Kelly College in Tavistock (1955-60) before becoming principal lecturer at Culham College in Oxfordshire. From 1973-77 he was head of history at Radley College.

While fulfilling these posts, Howat - always an active and energetic man - did a research degree at Exeter College, Oxford, on "the place of history in education". This led to Howat writing several history text books and acting as general editor of World History, a comprehensive survey of international history with contributions from such eminent historians as Asa Briggs and AJP Taylor.

In 1985 Howat retired from teaching and devoted his time to watching and writing about cricket. He had already produced (in 1977) a biography of the swashbuckling West Indian cricketer Sir Learie Constantine, who Howat had first met in Scotland in 1940. He said: "I met Learie when I was at Glenalmond and he was on a tour with a team called HB Rowan's Xl. I got his autograph then. Later I met him in the West Indies."

The biography was acclaimed for its research and balance and won the Cricket Society Jubilee Literary Award.

Howat went on to bring his enthusiasm and scholarship to three other heroes of English cricket, Wally Hammond, Len Hutton and Plum Warner. These biographies were all written in the 1980s and enhanced his reputation as a cricket historian. The book on Warner was particularly praised as Howat wrote incisively about the infamous bodyline tour, which Warner managed in 1932.

Howat gained access to letters to Warner's wife which provided a unique insight into the controversial tour. "Riveting stuff", wrote one reviewer.

But by then Howat was also active as the Daily Telegraph's schools' cricket correspondent and in that capacity attended many schools matches throughout Scotland.

He also wrote the annual schools report in Wisden. "I find writing easy," he once said. "The only thing that puts me off is the technology. I have said on three occasions this is my last book, but I so love writing about cricket."

Other books included Village Cricket, with a foreword by the veteran commentator John Arlott. His research on that book brought him north to cover many of the grounds in Scotland and a particular favourite was Freuchie Cricket Club. Howat's own autobiography, Cricket All My Life, with a foreword by the former England all-rounder Derek Pringle, had a special pride of place, however, as the dust sheet cover has a photograph of the author and Sir Leonard Hutton in relaxed conversation.

In his local village of Moreton in Oxfordshire Howat was secretary of the cricket club from 1961-90, when he became its president. He brought Moreton for a tour of Angus and Perthshire in the 1970s and kept wicket for all the matches. Howat was the team's resident wicket-keeper and last appeared behind the stumps for them in 2005.

For 20 years Howat, a patient and courteous man, served on various MCC committees at Lords. One of his most significant decisions was taken as a member of the arts and library committee, which last year permitted the urn, in which the Ashes are kept, to travel to Australia. "For about three years I had been discussing the mechanics of sending the Ashes to Australia," Howat said. "We had to insure that urn for 1 million."

Howat had met his wife, Anne Murdoch, while both were at Edinburgh University. She survives him along with their two sons and a daughter.

 
 
 

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