Tom Bowen & the history of the Bowen Technique

Tom Bowen Copyrighted - by kind permission of Ron Phelan

Thomas Ambrose Bowen (1916-1982) was born in Brunswick, Victoria and was the third child and only son to William and Norah Bowen who had emigrated from Wolverhampton to Australia in the early 1900’s.

Tom left school at the age of 14 years old and his first job was that of a milk carter then becoming a general hand at a woollen mill, before following in his father’s footsteps of being a carpenter, working as a general hand at the Geelong Cement works.

Tom was a keen sportsman and member of the Salvation Army. He ran a Salvation Army Boy’s Club training them in a range of sports, including a personal favourite swimming, exercise and gymnastics.

Tom met and married Jessie and they continued to live in Geelong with Tom’s parents.

After a day’s work at the cement works he began treating fellow workers for ailments that they were suffering from. As his reputation grew, these clinics would often last well into the night. Friends that he made at the cement works, Stan and Rene Horwood encouraged Tom change career and open his clinic full time from a rented house in Geelong. He continued to develope his technique without any formal training or qualification and frequently stated that his work was ‘a gift from God’.

With little business experience or rules to follow, Tom’s clinics ran on a very informal basis. Patients would call and be told to either attend the morning or afternoon clinic and on arrival would be instructed to take a number and wait.

Seeing a reported 14 people an hour, the wait was rarely a long one. Due to Tom being profoundly deaf, talking was kept to a minimum during treatment!

Tom continued to develop as a therapist and he gradually developed his work to help his own wife, Jessie, who suffered with severe asthma and prior to his treatment was regularly spending time in hospital.

In 1980 Tom was made an honorary member of the Geelong Crime Car Squad, in appreciation for all the treatment he had given the Victorian Police over the years.  Sunday mornings would see Tom at Geelong Prison treating injured prisoners.

Tom’s own granddaughter suffered a disability and died at an early age. In her memory, Tom ran a free clinic for children with disabilities, fortnightly on Saturday mornings. Today the Tom Bowen Legacy Fund continues this work in Tom’s memory.

In 1973 Tom attended the Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Naturopathic Committee and according to evidence stated that he was self-taught and his only form of study was to read the books he found interesting! By 1975, the Webb report of that year (a government report into natural health practices) reported that Tom was treating 13000 patients a year with what we today call Bowen Therapy.

Tom’s skills were not just experienced by people. He also worked with animals including dogs, cats, cows, pigs and horses. Indeed this work has continued and today practitioners are able to train in both Canine and Equine Bowen Therapy.

Tom did not document his methods.   Over the years people would spend time watching Tom in his clinic. Today it is regarded that six students were the main ones who ‘studied’ under Tom. These six men, Keith Davis, Kevin Neave, Nigel Love, Oswald Rentsch, Romney Smeeton and Kevin Ryan, became known as ‘Tom’s boys’and are responsible for Bowen as it is today.

Tom continued to work until his death in 1982.

I expect to pass through this world but once,
Any good thing therefore that I do,
Or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature,
Let me do it now.
Let me not defer or neglect it,
For I shall not pass this way again.

This was Tom’s philosophy during his life.

Image copyrighted supplied with kind permission from Ron Phelan

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