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Barnoldswick pupils pay tribute to heroic former students
9:40am Sunday 8th July 2012 in News
A Barnoldswick high school is appealing for more information about a former pupil who was hailed a hero for his efforts to defuse a bomb in London in 1983.
West Craven High Technology College is recognising the achievements of past pupils as part of the school’s platinum anniversary celebrations next weekend.
And one former pupil, in particular, Michael Rowlay, who attended West Craven when it was a secondary modern, went on to become a famous bomb disposal expert. His exploits were honoured by the Lord Mayor of London and the BBC after he played a leading part in the defusing of a World War Two bomb in London that brought the capital to a standstill in 1983.
“Finding out what has happened to some past pupils can be quite a mystery and involve considerable detective work,” said Julie Boardman, who works in the school’s library. “Steve Brierley, a former member of West Craven’s teaching staff and a keen collector of military memorabilia, made a fascinating discovery when he recently purchased a scrapbook about Michael Rowlay.”
Mr Brierley, who retired as a teacher in 2010, often goes to car boot sales and flea markets to uncover military memorabilia and it was at a flea market in Todmorden where he discovered the information about Mr Rowlay. “I found this table that had Royal Engineers manuals and the man running it had another bag full of stuff,” he said. “In there was this scrapbook that caught my attention. It contained a lot of press cuttings about Mr Rowlay.
“He and Major Quinn were responsible for defusing this bomb that literally brought London to a halt in 1983. It’s a fascinating story in its own right and he was quite a celebrity for a while.”
Mr Rowlay, who was 26 at the time, was called in when a 112lb bomb was dragged up from the River Thames. Even after 40 years, the bomb was considered dangerous and capable of blowing up large parts of the centre of London.
“We’re very proud to be associated with Mr Rowlay, but it would be interesting to know more about what happened to him after that event,” said teacher Julie Grimshaw, organiser of West Craven’s 70th anniversary celebrations. The Craven Herald discovered that Mr Rowlay, who was born in Keighley, died in 2010.
The Corps of Royal Engineers, Bomb Disposal - EOD, confirmed that Staff Sergeant Michael Rowlay died on December 1, 2010, at the age of 54.
Information and artefacts relating to the life of Mr Rowlay as well as other pupils will be on display at West Craven from 11am to 4pm next Saturday, July 14.
Anyone with more information about Mr Rowlay or any other former West Craven pupils, should ring Mrs Grimshaw on 01282 812292. “The 70th anniversary day will give people the opportunity to learn more about former pupils and show how education has altered since the school started,” said Mrs Grimshaw. “It’ll also be a chance for people to meet new and old acquaintances.”