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His only film appearance is in Ken Loach's 1969 film Kes. Bob Bowes played the headmaster Mr Gryce in the adaptation of Barry Hines' novel "A Kestrel for a Knave", in which a teenage boy from Barnsley, Yorkshire, Billy Casper, finds and trains a young kestrel and in doing so develops a sense of self-respect and discovers his individuality.
The character of Gryce - known behind his back as "Gryce pudding" to his pupils, is severe, perfunctory and abrupt. He appears constantly in a temper, and does not listen, inflicting punishment even on a boy who has simply been sent to convey a message to him by another teacher. In contrast to the pastoral approach shown by the teacher Mr Farthing - portrayed in the film by Colin Welland, he shows no interest in Billy as a pupil or faith in him as a future member of society ("heaven help your future employer"), and regards the young people of the school as being of little worth. At a time when grammar schools were considered superior, the character of Gryce, head of a secondary modern school, emerges as a frustrated and rather pathetic character. One critic has described Bowes' portrayal of him as "comically vicious...a twentieth-century update of Wackford Squeers, the appalling Yorkshire headmaster of Dotheboys Hall in Nicholas Nickleby", and in subsequent performances of the play actors playing Gryce have tended to remain close to presentation of the character by Bowes.
Bob Bowes' employment on the film "Kes" reflected Ken Loach's tendency to utilize ordinary people in roles to which they were suited, rather than relying solely upon professional actors. It is not clear as to whether Bowes was an acquaintance of either Loach or of Barry Hines, the author of the book A Kestrel for a Knave who also jointly wrote the film's script and was a former teacher. Bowes was in fact Headmaster of Ashton Road Secondary Modern School, Ashton Road, Castleford, (now known as Henry Moore Middle School) during the middle to late 1960s.
Bob Bowes died in 1979, aged 57.
- Leigh, Jacob (2002). The cinema of Ken Loach: art in the service of the people. Wallflower Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-903364-31-4. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
- Hines, B, 2000, A Kestrel for a Knave, London, Penguin Modern Classics
- http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/1822-kes-winged-hope Accessed March 1, 2015
- Register of Deaths, Doncaster, volume 3 page 0354, December 1979.