Rowan was born in Beachampton because that is where his father was Rector having returned from the post of Chaplain to the Bishop of Hong Kong. His father married late in life and was already 48 when Rowan, the first of his four children was born. Following his father's move to the living at Bratton Fleming in north Devon he was sent to Ellerslie School at Fremington and on to Marlborough in 1919 and thence to Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge in line with the strong family tradition. Here he read for the Natural Sciences Tripos and won an oar in the Caius IVth boat (Engineers) in the 1924 Lent Races.
Whilst up at Cambridge he fell hopelessly in love with Ruth, the child daughter of family friends. They adored each other and he agreed to wait for her. During holidays they spent all their time together but their special little world collapsed when Ruth was killed in a pedestrian road accident in 1925. He kept a note of her birthday and the day she died in his diary every year for the rest of his life. Ruth's parents gave Rowan a small silver-faced prayer book inscribed with their names and dated a few days after Ruth's death. It is assumed from this that their relationship was approved by her parents.
After Cambridge Rowan worked with Kennedy & Donkin initially and then with the British Aluminium Company, Kinlochleven in Scotland. He told of trips home to Devon in his air-cooled 8hp Rover, it being quicker to take it to pieces so as to use the passenger ferry than to drive round the head of the loch. At one stage during the general Strike in May 1926 he helped run a power station.
By 1929 when he married Mary Selby Parkin his parents had retired to Farlingaye Hall in Woodbridge, Suffolk the marriage taking place in St. Mary's Woodbridge with the reception at the Hall. Mary's father had already died so the wedding was hosted by his parents. Michael was born in 1931 and Anthony in 1935 when his father was employed by the city of Winchester converting their electricity supply from DC to AC. The following year Rowan was recruited by W D & H O Wills in Bristol where he worked for the rest of his life ending up as Deputy Chief Engineer. As a branch of Imperial Tobacco his widow had a highly beneficial pension which she guarded vigorously to the age of 92.
The reason that he was not called up in World War II is unclear. There is some evidence that he failed the medical on the grounds of bad feet but there is no record of his feet troubling him in later life. More probable is the fact that in engineering terms he was responsible for the factory which was making 50s tins of Woodbines which were being shipped out to front line troops making his a reserved occupation. Nevertheless, he certainly made his contribution fire-watching on the roof of the factory in Bedminster; as a member of the Civil Defence in Westbury on Trym where the front room of his house at 312 Canford Lane was the ARP post and by setting up the BVA which was the Bristol Volunteers Association working with the Unions to provide week-end shift workers for munitions factories.
After the war he led the electrical team building two new factories for Wills in Newcastle and Glasgow and became almost too involved in village life in Felton and Downside being a church warden and not a very good cricketer. He always said that if he had his time again he would 'stay on the tools'. He was ever a practical man doing all his own car maintenance and house repairs which leads to the conclusion that perhaps he was more comfortable with things than people. This did not stop him from getting his nearest and dearest together to celebrate his 50th and 70th birthdays. Towards the end of his life he expressed great support for his younger son's germinating idea of a Cobbold Family History Trust.