Guest Actor Biography
Page 25 of 127


John Cowley

Big Sid, The Little Wonders

by "Big Sid"

In January 1964 John Cowley made his first and only appearance in The Avengers when he portrayed Big Sid, The Dean of Rangoon in "The Little Wonders." In a film career spanning more than forty years, Cowley played mostly character parts. Among his most notable roles are "The Old Man in the Gym" in The Boxer (1997), "Flanagan, the Pubkeeper" in The Field (1990), "Devlin" in Anne Devlin (1984), "Barman" in Young Cassidy (1965), and "Garage Dealer" in The Poacher's Daughter (1960). Cowley is best known, however, for his starring role as long-suffering farmer Tom Riordan in the RTE drama The Riordans, which aired in Ireland from 1965 through 1979.

Cowley was born in September 1923 in County Meath, Ireland, and died on 13 February 1998, also in Ireland. He married actress Annie D'Alton, who was twenty years his senior. Their marriage lasted thirty years until Annie's death in 1983. He is survived by his only son, Ultan Cowley, a college lecturer and historian who has written several books, including the well-received The Men Who Built Britain, which details the history of Irish laborers in Britain.

From the time of his childhood until his death, Cowley devoted himself to the promotion of animal welfare. A founding member of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, he often attended hare coursing meets and fox hunts in order to expose animal cruelty. On more than one occasion he appeared on late night television with photographs of actual kills in order to alert viewers to the cruel nature of blood sports. His activism has been credited with initiating the campaign to have coursing banned.

Cowley once commented that he wanted to be principally remembered for his anti-blood sports stance: "When I see a hare running at the back of the house, I say thank God I love animals. Because if they become extinct, no money will bring them back and future generations will blame us." Appropriately, at his funeral a long-time friend described him as "an actor, an anti-blood sports activist and the man who talked to cats."

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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