RMB 3843 Band Colour Sergeant Rivers Orton HOWGILL
An Eulogy by Terry Freestone

Rivers was born in Coventry on 17 October 1945, the younger brother of two sisters Sheila and June. Growing up in the immediate post-war years in a city heavily devastated by the Luftwaffe, he appears to have developed an interest in music which led to enlisting as a Junior Musician in the Royal Marines Band Service in June 1961 when he was 15.

At the RM School of Music at Deal he learned Flute and Tenor Saxophone, extending this versatility, as he developed, with the Piccolo and Baritone Sax. At the age of 18 he was advanced to Musician and went to his first ship, the shore establishment HMS Ganges in Ipswich, moving in October 1964 to HMS St Angelo, Malta for 18 months with the Med. Fleet band.

On return to England in April 66 he had 18 months in Chatham at HMS Pembroke until being selected for a ship`s band in the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle under Bandmaster David Elliott, for the usual 18 months commission, in which saw the usual Med runs ashore- Gib., Malta, Naples, Toulon and over to Norfolk Virginia where the band played at a Red Sox baseball gig. It was during this period that he and Pam became engaged.

On conclusion of this period of sea-time, he was drafted again to Chatham in the naval barracks, and during the next 3 years he went on the qualifying Junior Command Course at CTCRM Lympstone, as well as getting married to Pam in December 1970.

Promotion to Band Corporal came in November 1973 and during the following years he and Pam became the proud parents of three sons; twins Douglas and Gareth and Anthony, at the same time buying their own home in Gillingham. Stability was always a key attribute to Rivers. I was delighted to be selected to take over as Director of Music of the sea-going Staff band of the Commander-in-Chief Fleet in Chatham, in 1978. Within a short time the long-serving Band Secretary had a draft elsewhere and I was faced with the key task of selecting one of the band to replace him. I decided upon Rivers and I hope I won`t be considered immodest if I say that I couldn`t have made a better choice.

He was quickly promoted to Band Sergeant and pitch-forked into a situation where his day job consisted of manning the outside office to mine, answering the phone from high and low, keeping me supplied with reports, updating the band engagements requests for both Port and Starboard bands, occasionally both together; typing letters from my drafts, liaising with the Bandmaster and Drum Major on disciplinary matters, and above all providing the vitally important supplies of tea I needed to keep me going; he very quickly became the personification of the ideal Band Secretary. And at the same time, he somehow managed to keep up his standard on Flute, Piccolo and Sax, occasionally taking part in band engagements of the highest standard throughout the country.

Because of the proximity of CinC Fleet band to London, it was inevitable for economic reasons that our band was almost always the one chosen by the Department of the Commandant General Royal Marines for any unexpected need for music in London; and it was for this reason that it was always us who did the annual performance at the Royal Albert Hall for the Festival of Remembrance.

I was fortunate enough to be appointed the Assistant General Manager at the RAH on retirement in 1982 from the Royal Marines.

Back in Chatham, Rivers continued with my successor until quite near the end of his allotted span of career when his especial skills must have been noted by both the School of Music at Deal and the CGs department in London. This led to him being appointed as the administrator of the annual Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Dept. of CG, with a six month extension of service and promotion to Band Colour Sergeant until going to pension in March 1986.

This takes us back to the Royal Albert Hall where, in 1982 on my arrival much long-overdue reform, reorganization and introduction of Daily Orders were needed to bring HMS Royal Albert into the 20th century, and long hours were needed by all the management to bring the wishes of the Council to fruition. My particular specialization was the administration and when in 1986 I heard that Rivers was retiring from the Service, I was quick to offer him the chance to join my staff.

Rivers joined my department, and among routine stuff quickly took on the complex task of dealing with daily calls and letters from the Seatholders and the even more complicated business of their ticket allocations, later assuming Duty Manager duties for the performances of the constant shows. Rivers fitted into all this like a glove, having an easy-going personality that masked an iron determination to get the job done.

In 1987, he was delighted to complete his family with daughter, Beth.

I left in 1989 for early retirement and I was delighted to hear that Rivers continued on and achieved 18 years in this second career, finally retiring from the Hall in 2004.

After he left he did occasional work at the Central and Brook Theatres in Chatham leaving much more time with his beloved wife and children and giving him time to indulge his main hobbies of listening to classical music, reading and strategic gaming.

I have had the privilege of knowing a totally sincere and upright person whose whole life was dedicated to square conduct and integrity and whose passing will leave a large space in our hearts.

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