Roger McGowan sadly passed away at his home in Kuala Lumpur on 7 July, 2020 aged 71, after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. Until the very end he had led a vigorous and busy life – in recent years taking part in ocean swimming marathons in Australia and Malaysia, and trekking expeditions to Ireland, Scotland and Tuscany as well as participating in his usual games of golf in Malaysia. He fought his cancer with tenacity and optimism – gaining a full four years on the UK consultant who six years ago had given him just two years to live.
Roger’s father, who had Roger late in life, had flown for the Royal Flying Corp in France in 1917 and was deemed too old for active service in the Second World War, where he served as an instructor. With these impressive antecedents, and with flying clearly in the family DNA, it was no surprise that Roger at the age of 18 successfully applied to join the RAF, where he trained to fly the English Electric Lightning, which was the UK’s primary air defence fighter of the 1960s and ‘70s. Roger served in Lightning squadrons in the UK, Germany and Cyprus before opting to leave in the 1980s and become a civilian pilot with Britannia Airways – where he reportedly enjoyed all the benefits that accrued from long-haul travel to exotic locations. In the 1990s, Roger had a two year assignment with Malaysian Airlines, where once again he participated fully in the cultural and social opportunities on offer, while developing a close attachment to Malaysia.
In the late 1990s, Roger stood down as an airline pilot and thereafter was largely unencumbered by work, taking up instead the Malaysia My Second Home scheme. This freedom enabled him to become an active golfer, scuba-diver, kite-surfer, mountaineer, ocean free-swimmer, trekker and international traveller. He also met Mindy, who became his long-term partner and, in his last months, his wife. Roger and Mindy were well known in the Kuala Lumpur social scene, particularly during Roger’s tenure as Chieftain of the St Andrew’s Society. Alongside his sport and socialising, many friends will also remember Roger for his enthusiastic promotion of outlandish conspiracy theories, which he would research and argue with the dogged tenacity expected of a fighter pilot.
As a keen golfer Roger played with a number of local golfing groups. He was a regular attendee of the KLOGS golf society, first playing in September 2008 (guest of Andrew Barber) before becoming a member in January 2009. He will be remembered fondly as perhaps the calmest player of the society, with his ability to never get flustered, regardless of the outcome of a shot with a great sense of humour. He was also a winner on the 2018 away in Bangkok and recently served on the committee as ‘moneybags’. Roger also played a total of 63 games with the Loose Cannons golfing group who play every Tuesday. Roger was also an active member over the last few years with the FRID’ Eggs golfing group who play every Friday and played a total of 37 games. He also joined the group on our last away tour in August 2019 to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
His unflappable character served him well in life. He never seemed to lose his temper and always retained a keen sense of humour – even in his final days. Roger died too young but he had lived life to the full. At his funeral, Roger the RAF fighter ace was dressed in the kilt and regalia of a Scottish chieftain. He was a man of parts and will be missed by his many friends, colleagues and companions.
R.I.P. Roger McGowan