Malcolm Fare, former editor of The Sword, supplied this obituary for Brian Howes, who died earlier in 2023.
Brian Howes, a talented three-weapon fencer, has died at the age of 88. He began fencing at Dulwich College when he was 11, winning the Public Schools sabre championship in 1952 and 1953, before becoming an Oxford blue and later fencing at Polytechnic Fencing Club.
He became the only person to win all three junior championships when, in consecutive years, he won the epee title (Fildes Cup) in 1955, the sabre (Ridley-Martin Cup) in 1956 and the foil (Doyne Cup) two years later in 1957. In that same year he was also British universities foil and epee champion, missing the sabre title by just one hit. For good measure, he was also runner-up in the British senior sabre championship, losing the barrage for first place to Mike Amberg. As a result, he was chosen to represent England in the annual Quadrangular match with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and received his international colours as a member of the GB sabre team at the World Championships in Paris.
In 1958 he was selected to represent England at the Commonwealth Games, but Uppingham school, Rutland, where he taught French and German, would not allow him the time off. In 1960 he was runner-up in the Corble international sabre tournament, but later that year became bursar at Saint Martin’s School, Solihull, which prevented him doing much fencing for the next three years. When he returned in 1964, he won the Corble Cup ahead of Sandy Leckie and Richard Oldcorn. Despite this outstanding result, he narrowly missed selection for the British sabre team at the Tokyo Olympics that year.
In 1975 Brian Howes began his long involvement with the Public Schools Championships. In 1977 he was elected chairman of the organising committee, continuing in that role for the next 34 years. By 2002 there were 18 competitions – three age groups for all three weapons for both girls and boys. Numbers continued to grow until they reached their zenith in 2007 with over 1600 entries, 27% of whom were girls.
Brian oversaw the move of the venue from Dulwich College to the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace where it remained. Denis Cruse, who was secretary from 1980 to 1996, and Rodney Francis, who joined the committee in the early 1990s, both have fond memories of Brian as an urbane and cultured man and an extremely effective chair. Denis remembers that one year a well-known school which usually had a good entry failed to send it in. On enquiry, it was found that the headmaster was reluctant to allow pupils to miss the time from school. Brian phoned the head expressing regret and concern at the reflection on the school’s academic progress; an entry was received shortly afterwards.
Rodney remembers one departure from Brian’s normal unflappable appearance, when there was a problem with some schools going way over the top with their support of fencers. This was swiftly quelled when those concerned realised just how angry Brian was despite his demeanour remaining quiet. He was manifestly livid and his radical departure from equanimity was exceedingly effective. On his retirement, the engraving on his presentation trophy summed up how people felt about him: Brian Howes, Champion and Gentleman, Chairman 1977-2011.
Brian is survived by his wife Mimi, his younger son Peter and two grandsons Anton and Nicholas (Nick), as well as his brother Alan; his first child Justin died some years ago.
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