Obituary: Rowland Cowley

16 February 2018

Canon Erik Wilson writes:

ROWLAND COWLEY, who died on 14 December, aged 93, spent most of his career as a consultant eye sur­geon at the North Riding Infirm­ary, in Middlesbrough. He was at one time chairman of the Northern Region Consultant’s Committee, and in that capacity had a heated discussion on the BBC’s evening news with the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Services, Barbara Castle.

Rowland and his wife, Tessa, at­­tended St Barnabas’s on their first Sunday in Middlesbrough, and be­­came part of the church family very quickly. Their home was always a place of open hospitality. On Boxing Day each year, they would host a lunch party for the clergy and their families; they reached 29 guests one year. They hosted a home group, Tessa led a women’s Bible study and a Guides group, and Rowland was church­warden for several years be­fore his work overseas precluded it.

Rowland retired from the health service in 1984 to work in develop­ing countries. His focus was teaching local doctors and paramedics to carry out eye procedures, including catar­act operations, without the high-tech equipment available in British hos­pitals. He travelled to Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, India, Pakis­tan, Tanzania, and Papua New Guinea. In 1999, he was awarded the OBE for this work.

Perhaps his greatest accomplish­ment was the establishment, in 2002, of the Anglican Eye Clinic, Jachie, in the Kumasi region of Ghana, now ably run by Sister Abba OHP, an ophthalmic nurse. In the first half of 2017, the clinic’s outreach service, which travels to some of the remote outlying villages, screened more than 6700 patients; more than 5500 at­­tended the clinic itself.

At the age of 93, Rowland had been hoping to make another six-week trip to the clinic, as he had done most years since it opened, most re­­cently in 2016, but failing health thwarted his plans.

Tessa predeceased him in 2009, and his eldest son, John, died in November 2017. He is survived by his three daughters, and by his sec­ond son.

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