Housing Law, Housing protest, Tenant & Resident Democracy, UK Housing Awards

Obituary: Barry Rowan, Housing Activist

By Niall Mulholland, SHAC Chair

SHAC supporters were saddened to hear of the loss of Barry Rowan, who died unexpectedly on 1 April, aged 79 years. Barry was involved with SHAC from its beginnings and was elected to its first committee. Although reserved, Barry’s genuine concern for social housing tenants shone brightly.

Barry was a member of Longlife Housing Cooperative, in Forest Gate, Newham. He was a long standing member of the coop’s elected management committee and had served as its secretary for several years. 

Barry was always interested in the wider housing movement, attending forums and conferences of the London Federation of Housing Coops. Recently, on 23 March, he attended a public meeting, hosted by SHAC and the Unite Housing Workers Branch, to hear Peter Apps, author of ‘Show Me The Bodies’, on the Grenfell tragedy.

Barry attended SHAC’s protests and lobbies, despite his advanced years. On a cold night a few years ago, Barry insisted on standing for hours with other protesters at the SHAC protest outside the housing association awards at Canary Wharf. It mattered more to Barry that the appalling conditions many social housing tenants endured was highlighted than some temporary personal discomfort.

Barry Rowan – 1944-2023

Barry’s generosity was also shown by his years of voluntary work at the Mildmay hospital.

I first met Barry when we joined the coop in 2007, and Barry was then the secretary. I was asked to step in as treasurer. Barry was an absolutely reliable fellow cooperator from the start of our collaboration. He always put the interests of the coop first. He was never happier than making busy at the housing coop office and making visits to tenants to help out with any problems.

Barry was good company and had an interesting and varied life. He left school at 16 years, and worked in the City, for a while, and then at other various jobs. He was a talented sportsman in his youth, playing rugby and football, and was a good athletic runner. He was an accomplished horse rider and took part in show riding competitions.

Barry will be greatly missed and fondly remembered. He was a good friend of my family. Since Barry’s sad passing, I have received many heartfelt messages from his fellow housing coop members that all speak to his generous personality and modesty, and his role in helping to maintain genuinely affordable homes, organised democratically and collectively. 

SHAC is honoured to have had Barry’s enthusiasm and involvement in its ranks. 

13 April 2023

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2 thoughts on “Obituary: Barry Rowan, Housing Activist”

  1. I am very sorry to hear about Barry`s passing
    please pass on my condolences to his family and friends

  2. This is a wonderful obituary for Barry Rowan who will be remembered for his selfless pursuit of the interests of tenants. His contribution shown above is truly an inspiration to all who will carry the baton passed on by Barry. Rest in peace.

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