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Cricket historian, writer, surgeon, spy: the mad world of Major Rowland Bowen

Once renowned, now forgotten, Major Rowland Bowen was an anarchistic self-amputee who ruffled establishment feathers and re-wrote cricket history

One September afternoon in 1968, Rowland Bowen, a renowned cricket historian and establishment-baiting controversialist, walked into the bathroom of his house in Willingdon Road, Eastbourne, set out a hacksaw, a hammer and a chisel, and sat down in the bathtub. Following instructions gleaned from years of obsessive amateur study, he then set about methodically amputating his own right leg.

Why he did it, nobody was quite sure. Bowen was many remarkable things but he was definitely not a doctor. Neither was there anything wrong with his leg. Years earlier Bowen had lost a finger too. He explained that one away to his remaining friends as an accident; he’d just been careless while chopping up food for the giant hounds that surrounded him as he sat at his typewriter. The term Apotemnophilia – a neurological disorder characterised by an intense and long-standing desire for amputation of a specific limb – was not commonly encountered until a decade later.

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