Arthur R Howes, 1926 to 2015 A brief memorial


Early days

Arthur Robert Howes grew up in New Cross, south east London, his teenage years coinciding with the war. Sadly his older sister Margaret died before he was 3, and so he was in effect an only child and no doubt spoilt as such.

A second cousin, 7 years younger, recalls visiting the house in Waller Road and being allowed to play with his toys (while he was at school) – his home-made fort, farm and bagatelle board were much better than the toys she had herself. Childhood holidays involved visits to relatives in Norwich, and local seaside resorts such as Yarmouth. Also fruit picking in Kent. Arthur must have had a camera when he was quite young. Going through the old albums revealed some interesting photos, with even more interesting captions such as “curly top” – this was his mum, the cheeky chap! (She did have very curly hair.)

The extended Howes family at the seaside, 1928? Aunt Gertie, dad Sydney, Margaret, young Arthur, mum Emily, gran Ann H Howes

He attended Waller Road primary school. With a top grade in the 11 plus, he was offered a place at Christ’s Hospital boarding school in Sussex, but this was declined and Arthur went to the local Addey and Stanhope grammar instead (1937-1943). Studied mathematics at King’s College London – an abbreviated two year course (1943-45) due to the war. His father was an elementary school teacher, and his mother had also taught for some years before getting married.

Working life

After doing just 6 months of national service at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, Dad did 18 months of coaching the equivalent of A level maths, with Davies Laing & Dick in Holland Park. He wasn’t allowed to start teacher training as he could still be called back for further national service. A further year of teaching at St Clements Danes Boys Grammar before he could train for what he had been doing already! Teaching practice was at George Green School in 1948 (the only other mixed grammar in London apart from Addey and Stanhope). Then on to Wilsons School in Camberwell, and Brockley County, before becoming Head of Maths at Bloomfield School, Woolwich, in 1957.

From 1962 he was at Malory Comprehensive School, Downham (Lewisham), where he was variously chief cricket score keeper, head of maths and later director of studies/deputy head (with a cameo role in school productions). Acted as treasurer and chair of London branch Assistant Masters Association (as it was, later Association of Teachers and Lecturers) {3}, and union representative on Inner London Education Authority committees. When he retired in 1983, he was a field officer for the ATL for a few years, on semi-voluntary terms, helping members with disciplinary issues etc.

Arthur (right), plus pipe and Williams cousins.
Arthur (right), plus pipe and Williams cousins. About 1947?

Tennis courting

Arthur married Norma Watkins in 1951. The Watkins family lived a little further up Waller Road, and he had met her father Len (Levi) as a fellow air raid warden. Introducing the two so his daughter could have a tennis partner, Len wasn’t quite so sure about them getting wed. The couple’s first home together was in Honor Oak Park, not far from New Cross. They then lived for many years at Eltham Park before retiring to rural Northamptonshire in 1985. There he took up bell-ringing, becoming tower captain for the church just round the corner, and also got involved in the local C of E primary school, for a while as chair of governors. However, his favoured reply to a query of “what religion?” was “lapsed agnostic”.

Another favourite anecdote Dad liked to relate was his own father’s (Sydney) strict instructions to his son: “don’t smoke, don’t drink, and whatever you do, don’t vote Tory (or I’ll come back and haunt you)”. Only the last of those stood a chance, although he only drank in moderation. Cider was the tipple of choice for a family Sunday lunch, but the range widened in retirement. He gave up his much loved pipe after a mild heart attack in 1979.

Sydney Howes died in one of the great London smogs, December 1952, a few days before his 64th birthday. ‘Gran’, Dad’s mother Emily, continued living in New Cross for many years, with regular Sunday visits to Eltham, or vice versa. She died in a care home in Deptford in 1980, a couple of months short of her 90th. {4}

Camping, canals and campanology

Dad, mum and the boys
Dad, Mum and the boys. 1967 or 68?

Holidays tended to feature camping, canals or, when he started taking it easy, group trips with fellow bell-ringers. Meticulous planning went into packing for the camping trips, compiling a turn by turn navigation check list, and researching target camp sites  – although Mum had the last say on the day based on shower block cleanliness! The vagaries of British weather saw the family abandoning the battle against storms occasionally (and memorably), but many happy times too. Popular locations were Winchelsea and Ewhurst on/near the south coast, a Chichester back garden, Woolacombe, Wells-next-the-sea and Leiston in Norfolk, south Wales, and one notable rail-assisted trip to Aviemore extending to 2 weeks rather than the usual one.

Mum and Dad - canals near Birmingham
Mum and Dad – canals near Birmingham

He was a lifelong Guardian reader, struggling for the last few years with his diminishing eyesight to hold both magnifying glass and paper up close. Originally a Labour voter, he joined and became active in the SDP. While never elected on a party ticket, he did serve as local parish councillor and parish clerk, too.

Despite being a Guardian reader, “culture” wasn’t high on Arthur’s list of interests. The family did enjoy trips to Horniman museum in particular, and cinema outings too, but in later life it was difficult to drag him to theatre or concert, to mum’s loss. Being tone deaf, as he said himself, didn’t stop him from joining in any singing with vigour. His artistic endeavours were pretty much restricted to technical drawing (and models), actually his favourite subject to teach – Christmas decorations often featured elaborate paper (or card) constructions. He would have liked to have been an architect, if the war hadn’t upset plans.

The Howes male line
The Howes male line

The garden was a source of enjoyment, growing vegetables as well as flowers both in Eltham and Weedon Lois. Tomatoes were a favourite, even if he didn’t always eat them. I don’t recall a favourite flower. Favourite food? Just about any pudding with custard!

The loss of wife Norma in 2010 hit Dad hard. He’d never learnt to cook, but managed to keep up his independence until autumn 2014, with shopping and medical trips provided by the weekly bus, neighbour or eldest son.

Family history

Not always confident with current technology (despite being part of a mini-computer timetabling trial back in the ’70s), the home computers were mainly used for word processing. Prompted by a WEA family history course, he wrote notes on the subject titled ‘Before I forget …. ‘. Unfortunately some technical problem on the PC led him to giving up on that machine, bringing his write-up to an end. He also encouraged your editor to pursue research, and was keen to have wallcharts of the Howes and Watkins trees.

Your editor has the first few printed pages of an early draft of the notes, which have been a  useful source on cousins, grandparents etc. Hopefully now the full final print-out will come my way and more material will be added to Cutlock & Co in due course.

Dad at 84
Enjoying a pint on his 84th birthday

Arthur R Howes died in his sleep in the early hours of 16th August, age 89. All four sons survive him, along with 2 married grandsons each with a young great grandson and a young great granddaughter.

The funeral was held at Weedon Lois church on 27th August {2}. The day also happened to mark 93 years since his sister was born, his maternal grandmother’s 163rd birthday and just one day out for his paternal grandfather’s 157th!

Your memories of Dad’s life, and any suggested amendments to the above, are welcome in the comments or via the contact form (I’ll assume the content may be re-used here, but any requests otherwise will be respected).

Notes

  1. This article has been revised somewhat in the days since first publication, as part of preparing notes for the funeral. The allotted 5 minutes won’t be enough to cover very much, and cut material has been added here instead.
  2. Family flowers only, please. If you wish to make a donation in memory of Arthur, the family suggestion is Inland Waterways Association – Dad was a keen supporter in his canal days. An alternative charity suggested by your editor is Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. This was set up to “to provide support and bursaries to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who want to follow Stephen’s passion for architecture”. Dad’s own interest in architecture (see comment below) and education, and the Eltham connection, is the reason for the choice.
  3. The archives of the AMA, up to 1978, are/were held at the Institute of Education, University of London – info link disappeared summer 2016. This is where Arthur did his teacher training.
  4. Other Cutlock & Co articles about the Howes family:

5 thoughts on “Arthur R Howes, 1926 to 2015 A brief memorial

  1. The current popularity of Cutlock & Co’s article ‘A bunch of artists’ reminds me that Dad actually would have liked to have been an architect, and his favourite subject to teach was technical drawing. Christmas decorations could feature elaborate paper (or card) constructions.

  2. There was a good turnout of bell ringers at the funeral, with good cause.

    When ARH moved into the village and ventured into the church tower, there was just a couple of people ringing. One of the oldsters managed 3 bells by himself, using 2 hands and one foot! However, he was incapable of explaining to a newcomer how to get started. I think Dad then sought out other local towers to find some help, and after Mum also took up the ropes they toured ringing towers together. As the vicar mentioned in the service, he was also fascinated by the mathematics of ringing patterns.

    Later he became tower captain and built up a strong band of ringers. Apparently he used the opportunity to do his teacherly bit and set homework, and marking the quality of the ringing.

  3. It’s just by chance i stumbled across this. Gutted to have learnt of Arthur’s passing. He was a good old boy having rung with him for many years. R.I.P old friend x

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