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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Desmond Rowney

Desmond Rowney is remembered these days—if he is remembered at all—as a political cartoonist. A staunch communist, he drew anti-monarchist cartoons for the Daily Worker which he signed under the pen-name 'Maro'. He became notorious for his unflattering depictions of King George V.

He was born William Desmond Rowney, born in Satara, Poona, India, 1899, the son of Lt. Col. William Rowney (1854-1948) and his wife Kate ffolliott Fendall Currie (1868?-1944)—the eldest daughter of Maj.-Gen. Fendall Currie (1841-1920)—who were married on 30 October 1890. William Rowney had become a surgeon in 1880 and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps a year later. He served in Egypt and the Sudan in the 1880s, became a Surgeon Major in 1893 and a Lt.-Col. In 1901. He retired in 1908.

By 1911, the family were living at 4 Linden Road, Didsbury, Manchester, the family including sisters Kathleen Elizabeth (aka Sister Patricia Rowney,  b. Aldershot, 1891; d. 1987), [Lady] Mary Georgina (b. Windlesham, Surrey, 1893, married soldier and author Sir Roger James Ferguson Chance (1893-1987) in 1921; d. 1984, one son , two daughters), [Doctor] Eileen Susan Pears (b. Satora, India, 2 February 1897, later married Albert Malcolm Barlow; d. 1986) and Norah Ffolliott (b. Aldershot, 1902).

Reputedly he was Sandhurst educated and an expert rifle shot. He served in the Connaught Rangers in 1915, rising from cadet to 2nd Lieutenant in December 1917 and to Lieutenant in June 1919, at which time he was posted to 1st Battalion.

He was dismissed from the service by sentence of a General Court-Martial on 26 February 1921.

Produced comic strips for the story paper The Rocket in the 1920s. He first illustrated a series of ‘Nutshell Novels’ before beginning the comic strip ‘Egbert the Explorer!’, which ran as part of the paper’s centre pages. He also contributed to Crusoe Magazine.

Living at 31 Ifield Road in Kensington in 1930, moving to 122 Gillespie Road by 1934.

Rowney served under Tom Wintringham in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. He was fatally wounded in February 1937 at the Battle of Jarama.


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