Rowan, James Harvey (Jim)
No. 522932, 39 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Killed in an aircraft accident on Friday 4 April 1941 (aged 28)
Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt (Grave K. 3)
Bangor and District War Memorial
Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s)
Bangor Grammar School
James Harvey (Jim) Rowan was born on 11 September 1912 in Castlewellan and he was the elder son of William George and Elizabeth Rowan (nee Harvey) of 28 Broadway, Bangor. William George Rowan was born on 15 January 1886 in County Cavan, he worked as a gardener and he and Elizabeth Harvey were married on 11 March 1912 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Bangor. William Rowan from Castlewellan was a son of James Rowan, a farmer. Elizabeth Harvey from Bangor was a daughter of Hugh Harvey, a gardener.
William George and Elizabeth Rowan (nee Harvey) had three children:
James Harvey (born 11 September 1912 in Castlewellan)
William George (born 21 December 1913 in Castlewellan)
Sarah Elizabeth (Sally, born 29 December 1918 in Castlewellan)
During the First World War their father, Lance Corporal William George Rowan (No. 44457), served with the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and he was killed in action on 20 October 1918 – some two months before his daughter Sally was born.
Jim Rowan was six years old when his father died.
Jim Rowan joined Bangor Grammar School in 1929 in fifth form, when he was almost 17 years of age. He studied for the King’s Scholarship examination which he passed in 1931. In school he was ‘popular with both pupils and masters’ and the Headmaster also said that he was ‘something of a bohemian with a vein of whimsical originality peculiar to himself.’ He was ‘a skilled exponent of association football’ and he played rugby for the school.
Jim Rowan was confirmed in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s) in 1929 and he and Sarah Francis were married in Bangor Abbey on 18 April 1938. They had one child, a son named Hugh Harvey Rowan, who was born on 23 August 1939 and who attended Bangor Grammar School from 1950 until 1957. Prior to the outbreak of war Jim Rowan worked as an insurance agent. Jim’s sister Sally worked in the Town Clerk’s office in Bangor and on 16 November 1943 she and John Clark from Donaghadee were married in the Church of Ireland Church of St. Columbanus at Ballyholme.
Corporal Jim Rowan (No. 522932) served as a Wireless Operator with 39 Squadron in the Royal Air Force and he was killed near Heliopolis in Egypt on 4 April 1941 as the result of an aircraft accident. He was being transferred from Egypt to Aden, but the plane failed to take off and burst into flames on the runway. He was buried in Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt and there is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST,
AND TO DIE IS GAIN
In the newspaper death notices there were tributes from his wife Sarah, and his son Hugh Harvey, who lived at 14 Scrabo Road, Newtownards and from his widowed mother who lived at 28 Broadway, Bangor.
Elizabeth Rowan lost her husband in the First World War and her son in the Second. Harvey Rowan was 19 months old when his father died.
In the 29 May 1943 edition of the County Down Spectator there was a Roll of Honour tribute from Jim’s ‘Brother Rover Scouts’ – R. Drury, R. Gillespie, G. Turnbull, W.I. McKinney, and P.W. McKinney. Corporal Jim Rowan was 28 when he died, and he is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial; in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s) and in Bangor Grammar School.