Francis Howard was a violinist, born in Swansea in 1929, into a family in which music was an important feature. As a teenager, he, with his elder sister and younger brother, formed the Howard Piano Trio which was well known locally, and came to the notice of the BBC in Cardiff. This led to broadcasts in the "Young Artists" series of programmes and, though he didn't know it at the time, it was the beginning of a long association with BBC Music in Wales. Some amateur orchestra playing and attendance at a summer school at Sherborne Dorset fired the enthusiasm of the two brothers for a more expansive sound, and so in 1946, both auditioned successfully for the first course of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales.

As a National Serviceman, he joined the Royal Artillery band. Being a marching band, he was given a clarinet and told to "learn it", which he did, and was soon playing as one of the solo clarinettists. He described it as a wonderfully varied musical life. Orchestra concerts alternated with band concerts, and as the leader of a small group of mainly string players he played at some unusual venues.

Following National Service, he played with several London orchestras, but he decided to return to Swansea where there were opportunities for freelance work and teaching. In 1961 he became a member of the newly enlarged BBC Welsh Orchestra, as it was known then, and where his young cellist brother was already a member. At the time, the orchestra repertoire was somewhat limited, but during his twenty seven years of playing, he saw the Orchestra's growth into full symphonic strength, working under international conductors and playing in concert halls across the globe. He was also a tutor at the (now Royal) Welsh College of Music and Drama, and many of his pupils became NYOW members and eventually, professional violinists.

He retired in 1987 owing to increasing sight problems, but he was still able to enjoy travelling, particularly when he accompanied his wife when she undertook overseas tours as an Associated Board Examiner.

He will be long remembered by friends, colleagues and past pupils and is sadly missed by his family who have founded a bursary for string players from the Swansea area, in his memory.