Michael Rowntree was educated at Bootham Quaker school in York before going on to study politics, philosophy and economics at Queen’s College, Oxford. He was a local Quaker that became instrumental in the re-organising of the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) at the outbreak of World War Two.
The FAU had first been formed during World War One and enabled those who objected to bearing arms to support the war effort in a different way. Membership was not just limited to Quakers as other conscientious objectors who refused to fight due to religious, moral or ethical grounds were also allowed to join.
Rowntree was elected to several leadership positions within the FAU and served in a variety of countries around Europe. He later went on to help form Oxfam and continued to support many charitable causes after his retirement to Kirkbymoorside.