Elizabeth Jane Howard Dies Aged 9003 January 2014
Elizabeth Jane Howard, the novelist who died on 2nd January aged 90, was lesser known in public life for her role in the inland waterways, but which was significant during IWA’s formative years.
Elizabeth Jane Howard was the Association’s first employee, commencing duties shortly after the Association was formed in 1946, working in a secretarial role to Robert Aickman (who effectively ran the Association in its early years), initially for two mornings a week at a nominal sum, and but soon extending to ‘several days’ a week for the grand sum of £2 and 10 shillings. Elizabeth Jane Howard (she was generally known just as ‘Jane’ within early IWA circles) was introduced to Aickman through Peter Scott. Scott, son of the Antarctic explorer, and later to become the famous naturalist, was a close friend of Aickman, and Peter Scott had met Jane when they were both at drama school during the war (Scott being on sick leave from his Royal Navy duties), and they swiftly married – Jane aged just 19 and Scott 16 years her senior. Their marriage lasted only 3 years, until Jane walked out on Scott abandoning their baby daughter.
In the Association’s early years, IWA’s office was Robert Aickman’s home, and Jane soon became a permanent fixture there. Her romantic involvement with Aickman became a cause of tension within the Association, but Scott and Aickman remained on good terms. Aickman’s wife, Ray, accepted the situation as her marriage to Aickman was more a business relationship, but she once famously said that she did draw the line at having to take them breakfast in bed. Aickman and Jane produced the Association’s early Bulletins; Aickman dictated the text as Jane typed direct on to stencils for duplicating. In 1948, Jane accompanied Aickman on his six-week tour of the northern waterways, on the boat Ailsa Craig, including the famous passage of Standedge Tunnel, with other key IWA figures joining them for parts of the trip.
Jane resigned from IWA’s employment in 1950 to concentrate on her writing career, but joined the Association’s Council shortly afterwards, and was a key figure at the 1950 Market Harborough Rally of Boats and Festival, directing one the plays put on at the event. Although Aickman and Jane wrote a collection of short ghost stories for commercial publication together, their relationship waned. Her eventual break-up with Aickman was traumatic and led to estrangement with mutual friends and Jane left the waterways scene, but she met Aickman again in a reconciliatory meeting during his long illness from cancer in 1980, shortly before his death in 1981 and gave a reading at his funeral.