A Place to Rest: Honoring Harry Rowland McGowan

Authored by Sophia Fuhrmann

The grave marker created in honor of Harry Roland McGowan was unveiled on November 13, 2021. The rendered plaque includes a brief yet unique history of actor Harry Roland McGowan, who’s grave had previously remained unmarked for a little under a hundred years.

The Friends of Maple Grove is a non-profit organization that was established in 2005. The organization “is on the forefront of utilizing the historical resources of [Maple Grove] cemetery and bringing its history to life” (Friends of Maple Grove, n.d.). FMG strives to ensure the dignity of those buried within the cemetery by providing burial locations to those with unknown or unmarked burial locations.

On Saturday, November 13, 2021, the Friends of Maple Grove, hosted a virtual lecture and mini concert in the South Section Boarder of Monumental Park at Maple Grove Cemetery celebrating the life of the late acclaimed stage and silent film actor Harry Roland McGowan (Ballenas, 2021, e-mail message to author, October 15, 2021).  

Harry Roland McGowan was born on July 25, 1878 in Adelaide, South Australia to Fanny Rushton and George McGowan (Ballenas 2021). As noted in the “Music and Drama” article, McGowan’s demeanor and acting was described to “leave a lasting impression” (Sydney Morning Harold 1919).

In the late 1890s, McGowan attended the Elder Conservatorium of Music at Adelaide University, where he studied elocution under Edward Reeves (Ballenas 2021). During this time, he would share the stage on several occasions with Lionel Logue, another renowned pupil of Reeves, who is known for serving as the speech therapist for King George VI (Cook 2011). Following his graduation, McGowan spent seven years working as an amateur elocutionist until his departure for London in 1904 (Sydney Morning Harold 1919). From London, McGowan set sail for the United States, arriving in Philadelphia in April 1907 (Ballenas 2021).

By 1909, McGowan adopted the stage name Roland Rushton and had performed on a variety of stages throughout the United States with touring production companies (Ballenas 2021). During his Broadway career, he participated in various collaborations with notable thespians including Margaret Anglin, David Belasco, and William Elliott (Playbill 2021). As a result, Rushton often traveled between London and New York for these productions.

By the early 1920s, Rushton’s career expanded as he began working in motion pictures. His best known roles included appearances in Doubling for Romeo, Beau Brummel and The Old Nest (IMDb, n.d.). According to the article “Roland Ruston dies in New York” (1925), Rushton was researching “potential film stories” for director Reginald Barker at the time of his death. Rushton passed away on November 5, at the age of 47.

McGowan’s new grave marker is symbolic of the Friends of Maple Grove’s commitment to highlight the various histories and legacies of its residents, reflecting the Vincentian tradition of St. John’s University to “foster a world view and to further efforts toward global harmony and development by creating an atmosphere in which all may imbibe and embody the spirit of compassionate concern for others” (2021). The act of placing a grave marker with a detailed history on a grave that had previously been unmarked for nearly a hundred years showcases FMG’s profound regard for integrity and honoring history.


Ballenas, Carl. 2021. “Harry Roland McGowan (1878-1925).” Find a Grave, 24 April 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/224835659/harry-roland-mcgowan

Cook, Andrew. 2011. “Edward Reeves, Lionel Logue and King George VI.” Archival Allsorts, 11 April 2011. https://blogs.adelaide.edu.au/uni-archives/2011/04/04/edward-reeves-lionel-logue-and-king-george-vi/

Friends of Maple Grove. n.d. “The Friends of Maple Grove Events.” Friends of Maple Grove. Accessed October 5, 2021 from https://www.friendsofmaplegrove.org/events1

IMDb. n.d. “Roland Rushton” Accessed October 1, 2021 from https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0750769/otherworks?ref_=nm_pdt_wrk_sm

Los Angeles Evening Express 1925. “Roland Rushton Dies in New York.” November 12, 1925

Playbill. 2021. “Roland Rushton Broadway Credits.” Accessed October 3, 2021 from 2021. https://www.playbill.com/personrolespage/person-role-page?person=00000150-ac7c-d16d-a550-ec7e6fa60003

Sydney Morning Harold. 1919.  “Music and Drama.” October 4, 1919. 

St. John’s University. 2021. “Our Mission.” Accessed October 2, 2021 from https://www.stjohns.edu/about/history-and-facts/our-mission