An Unstoppable, Delightful Man

“Here is the news from The Argus newsroom read by Denzil Howson” is my earliest memory of dear Denzil — what a voice!

I was 10 or perhaps 12 years old, an only child, and besotted by radio which was enjoying a golden period. Every station had its own distinctive character “3XY Your Quality Station”, “3KZ The Brighter Broadcasting Service” and so on. But they certainly didn’t waste what they didn’t have — money, so the news they nearly all took emanated from “The Argus” so Denzil had blanket coverage and I first heard that distinctive voice that rather decided my own career path. On my bedroom wall was a press page featuring the same D. Howson reading the news I think complete with pipe in mouth.

The “Listener In” was the weekly media “must read” and Den often cracked it for a mention there in one of his many guises as an actor, producer or broadcaster. There was seemingly nothing this fellow couldn’t turn his hand to.

I did follow my instincts, much to my dad’s chagrin, and my first job was at 3AW in 1956. Radio was at a time of great change and I just caught the tail end of variety and big production which my boss noticed I adored and he was instrumental in my moving to GTV in those fabulous halcyon days.

What an amazing time, never to be repeated, and one where I really saw Denzil excel.

This unstoppable, delightful man was producing live TV drama — a medical series as I recall (also writing it), controlling kids shows, appearing as a host of characters, directing — in a fashion. He was once famous as a three camera director for saying, “Ready 1, take 2, sorry 3” and generally showing us all how to behave when you have no idea what you are doing but do it anyway. The great Jack Davey once said to me, “Son, bite off more than you can chew and chew like buggary”. I sincerely think that Denzil taught him that.

Not only could he announce, act, write, produce and direct — Mr Howson was an accomplished technician and programmer who never stopped to blow his own trumpet but just kept barrelling on to be a very large, but sometimes unsung influence on the amazing success of GTV.

Best of all though he was a warm, funny, decent, loving man who I can honestly say I never saw do his block and who was always a total joy to be with.

Just last year I spent an afternoon in the studio/garage mucking around with Den and it was like stepping back 50 years to happy times — no pun intended — of recording and then enjoying Dot’s tea cake and a cuppa.

There will only ever be one Denzil and I have had the great good fortune to both know him and to have worked with him. Anyone who has stood in his shadow will, I know, agree with what I’ve just written.

If I’ve had any success at all Denzil must take a lot of the credit.

Des Ford
September 2005

Des Ford was head of the audio department at GTV9.