By Tedford B. Radway
A great oak tree has fallen. A long squash run has ended. A winning squeeze boast has been played for the last time off the strings of an American squash legend. So marks the passage of our friend and national squash champion, Alastair C. Gowan, who died at eighty years of age on April 27, 2015.
Alastair was recently National Squash Champion of the 75-80 Masters Group in 2012 and 2013. Prior to that, he was a perennial winner and finalist in his age group in his home state of Rhode Island. Starting at age sixty-five, he rarely lost a match in his age group. I honestly don’t know where he put all his trophies; he had so many of them.
Alastair was born and raised in Scotland, where he learned to play squash and golf at an early age. In the winters, when the golf course ponds would freeze solid, they would drive their cars onto the golf course and play curling on the frozen ponds. As a squash player, Alastair competed in the State league for dozens of years and was one of the first Rhode Islanders to convert from hardball to softball squash in the mid-eighties, when there was much local resistance to the idea. Alastair’s favorite shot was a high squeeze boast, which he would take early before the ball could drop. It would ricochet high off the side wall, trickle to the front wall low to the tin and barley bounce an inch off the floor. It was tough to get to, and it was usually a sure winner for him.
Alastair was also a Nationally Certified Squash Referee. He officiated fairly and impartially at many regional and national tournaments. He would announce the contestants as Mister or Ms., even if they were doctors, just to avoid the appearance of elevating one player over another. On one occasion, a medical doctor sought to correct him by saying, “It’s Dr. So-And-So, not Mister So-And-So.” But, Alastair was undeterred and refereed the balance of the match referring to both players as “Mister.”
I played squash weekly with Alastair for many years, and dinner always followed at a fine Italian restaurant with a fine Brunello, or Super Tuscan wine. Even with an age difference of sixteen years, he could get to the front of the court faster than I ever could. When I jokingly accused him of taking performance enhancing drugs, he laughed and said “Brunello is the only performance enhancing drug I care to take.”
Our friend and squash buddy Alastair Gowan will be dearly missed by a great many people. The national and local squash communities have been enriched by his many years of active participation.