PM itinerant and author, he was born in Gateshead and became a pupil teacher before training at the Manchester PM Theological Institute. As a circuit minister, mainly in the north-east, he built large chapels at Middlesbrough and Hexham and during an eight-year spell at Middlesbrough demonstrated great pastoral and administrative skill in consolidating the effects of the recent revival on Teesside. He was Connexional Editor 1916-1921, President of the Conference in 1928 and acting President in 1929 (following his successor's death), a director of the Chapel Aid Association from 1925 and its chairman, 1939-46. He gave the Hartley Lecture in 1923 on Christianity and Culture. Under his pen name 'Ramsay Guthrie' he was a prolific writer of homely stories on people, places and village chapel life in north-east England, beginning with On God's Lines (1899), and was a regular contributor to Free Church journals. He died on 8 December 1946 and was buried at Hexham.
His three sons all became local preachers.The eldest, John Ramsay Guthrie Bowran (1897-1974), was a director of the Methodist Chapel Aid Association, of the General Chapel Committee and of the Hartley Victoria Committee.