Dedication: Jeremy Howard-Williams, DFC.
This edition of the Bibliography is dedicated to the memory of that great aircraft pilot, sailmaker, yachtsman, raconteur, lecturer, author, publisher, translator, husband, father and friend, Jeremy Howard-Williams
We have only dedicated one edition to a great person before. That was the 1989 edition, which was dedicated to the great Cunard Commodore, Donald MacLean, former captain of the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, who was also a local friend in Warsash.
Jeremy died in 1995. The appreciation expressed at his funeral was both moving and exhilarating.
His wartime exploits as a night fighter pilot are well documented in his book Night Intruder. This includes an account of his revisiting Ford airport 20 years after it all happened. This was poignantly read at Jeremy’s funeral by his son Christopher.
What I am to write here are memories that did not get into Night Intruder or the Daily Telegraph obituary. Just some memories that I have in case you want to read and share some of the qualities of greatness that no-one really knows about.
Jeremy’s coming into Adlard Coles Ltd as managing editor at St. Albans in 1974 was momentous for sailing books and Adlard Coles Ltd in particular, and a breath of fresh air for us.
He had already written several books, including Sails. Adlard Coles Ltd was in a bit of a mess, both in the reprinting of titles and commissioning of authors and in the efficiency of despatching books. To a simple bookseller who just wants to be able to order and receive books this was a nightmare.
Jeremy’s efficiency, relentless insistence on other people doing their jobs, perspicacity and concern for people changed all that. Or was it just his booming voice?
We were often at the receiving end of his booming voice. When I moved the counter and till to give more room for the office and less for the shop I had to receive a friendly, but absolutely sincere, “so the customers don’t matter as long as the office is big”. This type of bombardment continued to the end. Almost the last time Jeremy came into the shop he said “Five of you sitting waiting, and one customer, me. And I am not a real customer, I’ve just come to waste your time!” Waste our time? How can you say that when it was Jeremy who taught me so much about books, selling, customers, authors and publishers and publishing?
If I was not here he would say “Boss not here AGAIN”. My story never changed. If I was not here, I was out ‘developing the business’. Well I could be doing that even if I was sunning myself on the island of Kos.
The beginning of the Bibliography was a mixed blessing as far as he was concerned. He realised how valuable it would be to all of us, not the least to him because he could see what his competitors were doing. It would save him asking me “Is there a book about...” But the Biblio is produced by computer. To Jeremy computers were just not understood and he did not want to understand them.
So imagine his delight when I took him into the store behind our old shop, to see the Bibiography masters being printed on the Diablo daisywheel printer. It was working all right. Except, from the printer came sheets and sheets of continuous computer paper - all blank because the ribbon had nm out! If Jeremy is telling stories to St Peter and the others up there I reckon that this is one of the stones that he will be pleased to recount.
Mind you Jeremy was not too proud to accept my offer of some desk top publishing to illustrate his lectures, not the least of which were for lectures when he and his wife Jill did a lecture trip on the QE2.
Jeremy came to the rescue when we prepared to publish an updated edition of Design of Sailing Yachts. The manuscript for the updating amendments came to me written in French. Jeremy kindly translated them, a thing that he was technically well qualified to do.
Jeremy’s concern for other people was shown when a customer, an old flying man with a DFC, urgently needed a North Biscay Pilot for his next cruise. The book was not then available but was coming soon. Jeremy managed to siphon one off as soon as they came from the binders and sent it to me. All this involved a lot of work for both of us but we felt satisfied when the book was posted to the customer. (The chagrin was when the customer sent it back as he did not need it by then!.)
Our eventful day was when we went to the London Boat Show together by train. We went there all right. It was the
coming back that was the fun!
1. We got turned out of the underground at Sloane Square because of a bomb scare somewhere. So taxi to Waterloo.
2. At Waterloo, bomb scare. Underground to Victoria, train to Wimbledon.
3. On train a Wimbledon. Nice and comfy when I realised we were in a 1st class compartment. Booksellers don’t travel
first class. Other passengers suggested we stayed put in the circumstances. We did.
4. Out at Parkway station. My car ran out of petrol as we joined M27. Fortunately spare can in boot.
5. Filling up at Swanwick Service Station. 0 no what now! A police car pulled up alongside us! It was all right though,
just the husband of one of my wife’s nurses come to say hello, were we all right? The police are wonderful.
For Jeremy of course, it was all fuel for future storytelling.
The final word must be about his book Sails. How many sailmakers in the world have been trained using this book? To us that was his magnum opus and the book that will ensure that his name continues to feature in the sailing history books.
Thank you Jeremy for all your help.