Media ID   0058-AB    

Brief preview on Radio GALA of Sydney Mardi Gras, and an interview (1992) with Robert Rowan – born 1915, openly gay in the 1940s and 1950s in New Zealand

Unique ID



Graham Underhill, Robert Rowan, unidentified speakers

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Source tape








Radio GALA – Access Radio Auckland, Graham Underhill



Radio GALA – Access Radio Auckland, Graham Underhill

Recorded by


Graham Underhill

Deposited by


Graham Underhill



This summary gives general themes as to the content of this recording. It is not a verbatim transcript. Always refer back to the original audio. This is a working document and any amendments/corrections are welcome.



Radio GALA (Access Radio – Auckland)



Looking forward to Sydney Mardi Gras.. more than just the parade..



5 February – 3 March.. list of events during the Sydney Mardi Gras festival.. largest non-subsidised arts festival in Australia.



Interview (1992) with Robert Rowan by Graeme Underhill. Robert came out at 29 in 1944 and was openly gay in the 1940s and 1950s with a relationship which lasted 27 years.



Rowan – 77 years old (born 1915).. born in Westmere, Wanganui.. nine in the family.. Scottish ancestry .. rather strict .. been a farmer all my life.. had a florist business for four years..



Rowan – Married in 1940.. first son was born .. called up.. into Trentham Military Camp.. being a married man they weren’t keen on sending you to the front line.. went into the medical unit.. stationed in Cairo .. then to Italy for two years..



Rowan – perfect health.. came home five weeks after the war ended..



Rowan – acknowledged I was gay when I was 24 .. met a white South African.. don’t regret having a family.. I never had guilt about it.. told my parents as soon as I got home..



Rowan – I had a few moments of doubt at times.. my marriage broke up in 1947..



Rowan – In 1947 ..meeting people.. I was always interested in young farmers clubs.. one thing led to another.. most young me are fit and virile .. I like a man to be a man.. no time for effeminate men.. I can’t stand anything camp.. meeting at parties..



Rowan – in the city, special gay bars in hotels .. I believed you acted as a man in public.. community .. I hid nothing.. belonging to the RSA.. while on service delivered three babies one night.. one of the babies is named Roberto..



Rowan – in the 1950s most kept it quiet.. a lot of married men .. business men.. my mother said to me in front of a group of church people to be honest.. I said I was .. I firmly believe I was born a homosexual..



Rowan – when I was 24 my mother told me I should get married.. Even in our church in Palmerston North there were a number of men who got married .. I know three men who committed suicide.. I have a friend today who is 47 years old.. he said he’s square.. but both his marriages have broken up..



Rowan – when I came back from the war.. a certain college in Palmerston North had a lot of gay or bisexual men.. school teacher propositioned me twice.. my wife and I are still the best of friends.. they know where I stand..



Rowan – I always respected my families wishes.. some of my relations said don’t visit anymore .. family functions.. bit by bit they accepted.. my intimate family didn’t reject me.. we were always told to be honest.. I always judge a man by his handshake or look in the eye.. to deny it was wrong.. owed it to my parents.. my mother wasn’t at all surprised..



Rowan – Gay Liberation - I was cautious what I went to or what I said.. a lot of young men are promiscuous.. fantasize..



Rowan – street marches.. I don’t agree with flaunting things or offending people.. .. I cannot stand men performing as women.. in the street.. I don’t go along with that .. I thought some of them were rather bold.. call a spade a spade.. I discuss it quite openly with my granddaughters and grandsons..



Rowan – twenty-seven year relationship.. I loved the boy.. he came up every weekend..



Rowan – thinking back to the last Depression (1930s) .. Mother was very capable.. ran a house on four pounds a week .. seventeen people on the farm..



Rowan – two of my uncles in the First World War.. learnt about it in the trenches.. one of my uncles propositioned me when I was fifteen.. when father knew what I was.. I said what about Uncle Alec..



Rowan – Homosexual Law Reform .. I’ve had my say at Mt Eden Hall .. the Bible.. gay churches in Auckland .. sung in the choir..



Rowan – closet queens.. I believe in acting as a man in public.. hypocrites – some of them are close friends.. I’ve had phone calls from members of the church.. I think we should be honest..



Rowan – the loss of youth and beauty.. I’ve always been a hard working man.. youth is lovely to have.. but I’ve got fifty-two years of experience.. I don’t feel my age.. I don’t act my age.. I still believe in love making.. magazines.. manly bodied men..



Rowan – I have my likes and dislikes.. I like to know who I’m with.. I’d rather not do cold blooded sex..



Rowan – I’m very careful.. young people taking risks.. young men do not interest me .. I don’t feel my age.. age doesn’t worry me .. I believe in the hereafter.. I’m a child of God..



Rowan – death doesn’t worry me.. I made my decision at sixteen.. we’re made the way we are .. I live from day-to-day.. I speak to the Lord in prayer..



Rowan – square friends and gay friends.. honesty.. acknowledge what you are and go forward.. I’m an excellent cook.. tapestry.. when I was farming I’d open up my house and garden.. took six-hundred and forty pounds.. garage sales..



Rowan – why should I get stuck at home .. like the theatre and films.. royalty have been to my home..



Rowan – If I had my time again.. I’d never marry .. yet I have a lovely family of fifteen