Basil Cairns Dowling was born in Southbridge, New Zealand in 1910, the youngest of five brothers.
After graduating from Canterbury University, he became a Presbyterian minister in Seatoun, Wellington, and Chaplain of
Scots College (1938-1941). A true pacifist by nature, with the outbreak of the Second World War he found himself unable to
reconcile Christian doctrine with the Church’s attitude towards war. He and Ormand Burton, along with several others, made
their views known from a soap box on the Wellington streets, after which they were arrested for sedition and imprisoned
for three and a half months in Mount Crawford Prison.
Disillusioned with the Church, he renounced the Ministry and moved to Christchurch where he spent the remainder of the
war years working on a market garden. He later became Deputy Librarian at the Otago University Library in Dunedin, having
first held the post of Reference Librarian there (1947-1951). When he left New Zealand for England in 1952, he always
expected to return but events proved otherwise. He began teaching, first at Downside Preparatory School in Surrey and then
in 1954 at Raine’s Foundation Grammar School in east London where he became Head of English until his retirement in 1975.
He then moved to Rye in East Sussex where he remained until his death in 2000. He married in 1936 and had three children.
In Christchurch he was among the first contributors to the literary journal Tomorrow, (founded in l934 by Kennaway
Henderson) in company with other young writers and poets such as R.A.K.Mason, Frank Sargeson, A.R.D.Fairburn, Allen
Curnow, Denis Glover, James Baxter and Lawrence Baigent. It was eventually succeeded by Landfall, to which he was a
regular contributor even after he left New Zealand. He was a close friend of Charles Brasch, co-founder of Landfall with
Denis Glover, and of Ruth Dallas with whom he corresponded until his death. In England he was closely associated with
other expatriate New Zealand writers and poets, among them James Courage, D’Arcy Cresswell, Walter Brookes, Hubert
Witherford and Dan Davin.