Nigel Clark retires from Howarth


An important update from MIA member, Howarth, and some personal thoughts from Nigel…

I am now in my forty fifth year as a Director of Howarth of London and it is high time to make way for some younger blood in the company.  The opportunity has arisen for Jeremy to take the company forward, and I am grateful to be able to leave knowing the company will be in Jeremy’s safe hands with exciting times ahead.

Bowing out after such a long time has been a difficult decision.  I have, at long last, realised that despite my youthful looks and boy-like charm, I am not immortal.  It is time to start working my way through my bucket list with my wife and family.  I want to travel the world without a case-full of oboes, and I think I have heard there is something called a golf course that seems to be attractive to men of my age. More urgently, I believe the English test cricket team could do with my help.

There cannot be an industry as special as the Music Instrument trade for the camaraderie, hard drinking and international gastronomic experiences of variable quality we enjoy together. More seriously the mutual respect for ones’ competitors is, I suspect, unparalleled. Family firms abound and making life-long friends with shared interests from around the world is one of the treats of the business that I could not have anticipated as a boy of 19 when I first took the company on.  A love and appreciation of music is something that drives us, and I can’t think of a more fulfilling industry to work in.  I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to spend time with many legendary musicians. I count myself extremely lucky.

The first 30 or so years when we were trying to build the business were challenging but somehow we managed to survive in a world that was changing very fast. My business partner John Pullen and I worked together in the development and improvement of the oboes of which I am extremely proud. John took the company from 19th century manufacturing techniques well into the 20th century.

Overseeing a company that, since 1973, has grown from a team of three to nearly 60, my role has seen many changes. For staff, it’s a place where colleagues are friends and where we all work together for the benefit of the company.  The team I work with in London today is a collection of highly skilled and talented specialists and generally very highly qualified academically. Indeed having left school at 16 with one ‘O’ level I am officially the least qualified of all the staff. In a world where people can expect to go through many different careers, it is heartening to me that many of those who join Howarth stay a very long time and are appreciated for their specialist contributions.

I’d like to thank all the staff from London and Worthing for their hard work, ideas and ambition.  Although there is not time to thank all those who deserve individual praise, I must thank Michael Britton for his forty years of extraordinary dedication, encouragement and friendship.  Since John Pullen retired some fifteen years ago, I have been working with Jeremy as my business partner. I credit him with taking the manufacturing of our oboes forward into the 21st century, with technology and machinery increasing production to a level that I could not have envisaged.

Although I cannot wait for the time when I will not have to set the morning alarm for 05.45 for my long commute, the oboe has been too big a part of my life to leave the industry behind entirely. I plan to start enjoying the instrument, not as a maker but as an enthusiast, visiting IDRS conferences and keeping up with the friends and colleagues I have made from all around the world during my many years at Howarth.

I am happy to be leaving Howarth in the strongest position we have ever enjoyed. I would like to thank my customers and suppliers for their support that now allows me to leave, after all these years, very happy and fulfilled. I am sure that Jeremy and his staff will continue with the ethos I have tried to instil which underpins Howarth, and I wish him and his team every success for the future.