Bowles, John Joseph (1879–1949), handball player, was born 5 September 1879 in Clare St., Thomondgate, Limerick, son of Joseph Bowles, cooper, and Lisa Bowles (née Cusack). Although he gained initial recognition as an oarsman with Shannon Rowing Club, he achieved fame through handball. He began playing at an early age and first attempted to become national handball champion in 1897, but it was 1902 before he achieved this status by winning the Cork tournament. He was unsuccessful in 1903–4, but this proved to be a mere hiatus preceding a period of unprecedented domination of the domestic game. He was Irish professional champion 1905–10 and 1912–20. In 1909 his superiority in Ireland led to a match for the world professional handball title in which he was defeated by James Kelly, a New York policeman. He refused to compete for selection on the Irish team for the Táilteann games of 1922 (which were held in 1924), as the trials were not held at neutral venues. Playing until a relatively advanced age, he won the Irish senior hardball doubles championship of 1926 in partnership with another Limerickman, Stephen Gleeson. At this stage he was already involved in administration, becoming vice-president of the Irish Amateur Handball Association on its foundation (1924).
He worked as managing clerk at a number of solicitors' practices in Limerick, and he was also a publican. Childless when he died in Limerick (2 March 1949), he left an estate of £609 to his wife Myra Georgina, who died 25 August 1949.