Rowland became an MEP in 2019

The OS Club has received the sad news that Robert Rowland passed away in a diving accident in the Bahamas on 23rd of January, aged just 54. Robert was a politician who served as a Brexit Party Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for South East England from 2019 until the UK’s exit from the EU in 2020. Please see an obituary from The Times below:

Fund manager for George Soros who was compared to Action Man and became a combative and outspoken Brexit Party MEP

When a London bus inspector discovered that Robert Rowland was travelling without having paid his £1.50 fare he refused to accept Rowland’s explanation, starting a chain of events in 2016 that led to a £750 fine.

He had forgotten his wallet and the conductor could not take cash, so as a regular on that route he had been allowed to travel free. Luckily Rowland was a friend of Richard Littlejohn, the Daily Mail columnist, who took up the case in his column. TfL promptly dropped the fine and apologised.

Littlejohn lent his support again three years later, when Rowland was unveiled by Nigel Farage at the Lakeside Country Club as one of 70 Brexit candidates in the European election. “They are free from the stench of institutionalised decay and entitlement,” said Littlejohn, “which clings to the other parties like a cheap suit.”

Rowland was a supporter of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party

Rowland was a supporter of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party

Rowland, who a Guardian writer said had “the face, haircut and stiff demeanour of a freshly bought Action Man”, described the 2019 European election as “one of the proudest moments of my life, to be part of a movement that changed the course of history and led to our departure from the EU”.

He was a Brexit Party MEP for South East England from July 2019 until January 2020, when the UK left the EU, and served on the economic and monetary affairs committee and the industry, research and energy committee.

Rowland told the Lakeside meeting: “The last three years have seen Britain’s establishment do their damnedest to delay, defuse and dilute Brexit. There might not be tanks on the streets, but make no mistake: this is a coup against democracy.” That combative tone was a trademark of his political career, underlined by framing his Twitter picture in the gun-barrel motif used in James Bond films.

On the coronavirus pandemic, he demanded that China pay “some form of reparations for the economic Armageddon they have unleashed on the West.”

Rowland with Condoleezza Rice

Rowland with Condoleezza Rice

Robert Andrew Rowland was born in 1966 in Bowdon, a village near Altrincham in Greater Manchester. He was the middle child of John Rowland, who owned an engineering firm, and Mary, a nurse.

Robert attended Beech Hall preparatory school in Macclesfield, Cheshire, then Sedbergh School, Cumbria.

His friend James Heeley said: “ ‘Knobby’ Rowland was seen as an insolent, lippy southerner with a high-pitched voice, knobbly knees and too much self-confidence. But he was fearless, could never be moulded by the system and was a rebel throughout his time there.”

He excelled at shooting, cross-country running, athletics, tennis, rugby, cricket and water polo. Nearly every day of his adult life he swam 50 lengths, no matter how short or long the pool.

In the sixth form he became an avid reader of the broadsheets, Private Eye and The Spectator.

At Newcastle University he read politics, economic history and East Asian studies and developed uncompromising views, railing against what he called “the football-terrace behaviour of the fascist left”.

After graduating he became a regular stock market trader and with help from his stepfather, the late Johnny Williams, the former England and British Lions rugby player, he started work at Lazard Brothers Asset Management and trained as a stockbroker.

In 1992 Rowland married Elizabeth Ashton, a dentist he had met at university. They divorced the following year.

When changing planes at Madrid airport he bumped into Lisa Marie, a financial services executive he had admired from afar at a conference. They married in 1997 at Lake Tahoe and honeymooned paragliding in Mexico.

“The first day we flew,” said Lisa Marie, “Robert caught a thermal which took him far away. I wondered what had happened to him until the evening, when he returned with a bunch of calla lilies in his arms, talking about his amazing cross-country flight, being chased by dogs and cattle and trying to find his way back to the village.” Their four children, Mathew, Luke, Emily and Alexander, are all still at school.

Rowland was deeply affected by the death of his brother Johnny, a Royal Marine who had been expelled from Repton School, served in Afghanistan and took up sports such as parascending and off-piste skiing. After Johnny died in a motorcycle accident in 2004, Robert supported his regimental charity and was a director of Tickets for Troops, which distributes free music and sports tickets to members of the armed forces.

Rowland ran funds for several firms, including $1 billion (over £500 million then) for the US billionaire George Soros but he felt he could achieve more through politics than finance. “What led him into the Brexit Party,” said Heeley, “was his frustration at how Britain had been managed.”

Heeley added: “Although Robert was loud-spoken and could come across as arrogant, he spoke his mind and shirked nothing. As a friend he was always unflinchingly loyal, constant and supportive.”

Robert Rowland, fund manager, was born on February 28, 1966. He drowned while diving near his home in the Bahamas on January 23, 2021, aged 54