Robert and Winnie

I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Robert Rowen. Robert lived what seems like a pretty anonymous life in the Dublin suburbs but because he took the Scriptures seriously and loved his neighbour he in many ways blessed the entire world.

Robert and his wife Winnie had 10 children! As if 10 were not enough, when the wee boy across Cedarwood Road lost his mother, the Rowens took him in.

The wee boy across the road in number 10 was Paul Hewson, later known as Bono. He became best friend with Derek Rowen, better known as Guggi who became the main focus of two U2 songs - One and Cedarwood Road. 

Other Rowens became part of the story of the wee boy’s rock band. U2’s first album Boy and indeed their third album War had Peter Rowen's face on the covers. Peter went on to be a photographer himself and the band have used some of his photos.

Guggi wasn't the only brother with two U2 songs written about him. Both Bad and Raised By Wolves were written about Andy Rowen, who got caught up in UVF bombs in Dublin while out delivering with his dad, Robert. Read Andy's amazing story here

Anyway, it was Robert and Winnie who took Bono to Christian meetings. The Rowens were from the conservative Brethren and Robert was a stern, at times over stern disciplinarian.

Robert reminds me of Andrew in the New Testament Gospels. It was Andrew who introduced his brother Peter to Jesus. Peter became the one with the widest influence but Andrew was the “gateway to the sun” as Bono sings of Robert's cherry blossom tree in the song Cedarwood Road!

I am always inspired by the very ordinary but tangible everyday way that Robert and Winnie Rowen loved their neighbour has changed millions of lives around the world. Quite an example to us all! 

In the sleeve notes to Songs Of Innocence, an album about U2’s childhoods. Bono mentions the Rowens from number 5. He calls them an “Old Testament tribe.” He is so right. I have had the privilege of getting to know some of this family. I think I once made a plea to be adopted as a 60 year old brother! They are Old Testament in size and their deep roots of faith and the drama of their lives. 

As well as Guggi’s friendship for life, Bono got so much more from Robert and Winnie Rowen. In the liner notes of Songs Of Innocence Bono writes about those Christian meetings with the tribe! 

He writes, “In their company I saw some great preachers who opened up these scary black bibles and made the word of God dance for them, and us.” In Cedarwood Road he sings, “Cymbals clashing, Bibles smashing/Paints the world you need to see.”

Brushing Lou Reed and the Rowen family together, Bono concludes, “Lou Reed, God rest his soul, said you need a busload of faith to get by. That bus was full of Rowens and I was on it.”

Robert and Winnie with other members of the Tribe came to an event I was doing in Dublin at the time of Songs Of Innocence. Another brother Jonny was singing for me at the event. 

I was nervous as I shared the family’s story in front of them. If anyone could shout, “Rubbish, he’s making it up” it was them. Afterwards I sat for a time with Robert. We had a good yarn and then he says, “You know I took Bono to Bible Clubs!” Yes I do Robert. You’re the reason so much theology got out across rock music. Even after I’d preached his successful ‘Love thy neighbour’ he was still too humble to let it sink in.

People often ask me what I spoke about the short few minutes that I had with Bono after one of the Belfast gigs on the Songs Of Innocence Tour. The answer is the Rowen family, specifically Robert, Winnie and Andy.

To Winnie particularly we send our love and prayers today. May Jesus be proved right when he called the Holy Spirit a Comforter. To all the brothers and sisters that I know and those I don’t plus grandchildren and great grandchildren, may God bless each one of you with peace beyond understanding. Robert Rowen stood firm until the end.

Thank you sir…


Andy Rowen

Thanks Stocki! That's a wonderful tribute to our dad. ♥️

Peter Rowen

Lovely tribute Stocki! Thank you

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