Obituary Roland Dawson-Bowling

2 August 1945 – 31 January 2012

Roland didn’t have the easiest life. Sometimes this was of his own creation, and at other times down to circumstance. He was born two months prematurely in British South India, in August 1945, and in 1952, the family moved to Tiverton where Roland’s father James had become Chaplain of Blundell’s. Some years later, Roland joined the choir school at Exeter Cathedral which gave him his introduction to one of the great loves of his life: the music of the Anglican Church. He went on to study singing and piano at the Guildhall School of Music in London and even though music – sadly – did not end up being Roland’s career, it remained a central feature of his life.

He knew more about music than almost anyone, keeping up to date with the latest developments and new recordings of favourite pieces. In typically self-deprecating fashion, he called it “a fund of useless knowledge” – his family and friends called it “enormous intelligence”; which on more than one occasion made him a formidable ally in the pub quizzes he sometimes went to with his niece Leonora. Paradoxically however, whilst his magnificent brain was capable of recalling the type of reed used by the second bassoonist on a 1976 recording of Bruckner’s 8th symphony, it didn’t always seem able to help him remember to comb his hair.

Despite not being blessed with huge wealth, Roland was extremely generous, characteristically putting the needs of others before his own. He was also obsessively thrifty all his life, a result of having grown up in the austerity of post-war England, and was unquestionably an eccentric. For example, back in the late 1970s, instead of giving his beloved mother a Christmas present of book, flowers or chocolates, Roland presented her with the LP Never Mind the B******s by the Sex Pistols!

For one reason or another, Roland wasn’t always this attentive when it came to birthday cards or presents. His family could go for years at a time with no acknowledgement of a birthday and then out of the blue, someone would receive a Chinese New Year card, a St Patrick’s Day card, or after several years of nothing on her birthday, his sister Anne received from Roland a book about... werewolves.

Roland hated injustice; and was unfailingly courteous to everyone, friend and stranger and he consistently put others before himself. Not just other humans – for example, the pub staff whom he would help by collecting others’ empty glasses – but also plant life: when a friend suggested that, as an economy measure as well as for his health, he might enjoy growing fresh vegetables in his garden, his reply – with a twinkle in his eye – was, “Who am I to dig up the weeds God has planted?”

Roland was taken too early after a short but vicious battle with cancer, and he passed to the next world on 31st January 2012 knowing that he was loved by all, unconditionally and completely. He left behind him many treasured memories, jokes, anecdotes and a legacy of true Christian humility. He was very kind, funny, eccentric, modest, sensitive and at times painfully shy. He was also humble, generous, self-deprecating and bewildering; but always his own man.

May his wonderful soul rest in peace.