J.B. Rowe

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J.B. Rowe (b. St. Just, Cornwall, 10/03/1888 – d. Hendon, Middlesex, **/**/1958?) was an actor, producer, playwright.


John Boyne Rowe was born in St. Just, Cornwall and, like his father, trained as an engineer. As a youth he visited a relative in California and during his time there he joined a small stock company, whose members included Allen Doone and Edna Keeley. While in Glasgow he retained his link with the theatre as a drama critic for a London theatrical newspaper. He came to South Africa to work for a mining company in the Barberton area, but after completing his contract he decided to switch his allegiance to the stage, touring the country with the likes of Marie Tempest, Madge Fabian and Gertrude Elliott (Lady Forbes Robertson). When war broke out he joined an infantry contingent recruited in South Africa and spent time on active service in East Africa.

He subsequently he acted in three films for African Film Productions: The Symbol of Sacrifice (Dick Cruikshanks/1918), in which he played Louis Napoleon, the Prince Imperial, Bond and Word (Dick Cruikshanks/1918), and The Vulture’s Prey (Dick Cruikshanks & William Bowden/1920, released in 1922). As a member of the American Dramatic Company, he appeared in many plays at His Majesty’s Theatre in Johannesburg, and then joined his old associates of the Allen Doone Company at the Standard Theatre, often acting with the likes of Florence Roberts, Yvon Saxby and Richard Scott. In addition he wrote a play called Blackmail, which had a successful run in 1922 and, as actor-manager, toured with the Boyne Rowe Company.

In 1922 Gertrude Elliott returned to South Africa and when she left on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, Rowe was a member of her troupe. At the completion of this tour he remained in Perth as producer for the local Repertory Club. From 1923 till 1930 he made his home in Australia. He performed in (and sometimes produced) numerous plays in all the major cities and wrote another play called The Reprieve (1924). However, in October 1929 he was in New York as part of an all-British cast of The Middle Watch and in 1930 he acted with Marie Lohr in Dandy Dick at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. Thereafter he returned to Australia. By the late 1930’s he was back in England and acted in some of the very earliest television programmes for the BBC, notably an irregular five-part series of crime stories called Telecrime (1938-39), in which he appeared as Inspector Holt, television’s first police detective. He also worked in radio and made a final visit to South Africa in 1940.

He died in Hendon, Middlesex, possibly in 1958.

(Interestingly, though by 1921 he is reported to have devoted himself entirely to the theatre, the United States Patent Office has a patent for a Change-Speed Gearing registered on 13 December 1921 in the name of John Boyne Rowe and Arthur Garfield Barratt, both British subjects, but living in South Africa. Rowe’s address was given as 59 Millbourne Road, Judith’s Paarl, Johannesburg.) (FO)

Stage Appearances

Stage appearances in South Africa include: Marie Goes First, The Belle of New York (both 1915), Turn to the Right, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, The Thirteenth Chair, The Silent Witness, Nothing but the Truth, Sunday (all 1918), Romance, Seven Days’ Leave, Within the Law, The Little Brother, Nobody’s Widow, Madame X, The Yellow Ticket, Sweet County Kerry (all 1919), Tom Moore, The Burglar and the Lady, Barry of Ballymore, The Parish Priest, Molly Bawn, Old Donegal, The Bold Sojer Boy (all 1920), The Rebel (1921), Bought and Paid For, The Cinderella Man, When It Was Dark and Babette.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 October 1926

Western Mail, Perth, 1 November 1928

The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 1930

Table Talk, Melbourne, 1 January 1931



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