Obituary: Robert Shearer Sim, CBE, QPM, senior policeman

Born: 11 July, 1930, in Greenhill, near Falkirk. Died: 13 March, 2015, in Hawick, aged 84

Robert Shearer Sim CBE, QPM: Senior police officer who became HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland
Robert Shearer Sim CBE, QPM: Senior police officer who became HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland

A man who commanded the greatest of respect from all who met him, Robert Sim, or Bob, as he was affectionately known, was a proud and dignified individual who not only conquered his career, but was a caring and devoted husband, father and grandfather. His passing signals the end of an era for all those who knew him.

Born the son of a railway signalman in the village of Greenhill, Bob was the middle child of three brothers. He attended the local primary school before completing his education at Denny High School, where he excelled academically.

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With the United Kingdom reeling from the aftermath of the war, enrolment at university would have required a two-year wait. Bob decided to forego a chance at higher education to take up the security of employment in the Civil Service while awaiting his call for national service.

In April 1949, he reported to Catterick Camp in Yorkshire, and after three months of basic training he was posted to the Royal Military Police, where he spent the remainder of his service in the War Office in London, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed and which ultimately influenced his post-service career choice.

In June 1950, while serving in the War Office, Bob met Jean Platt from Bradley, near Wrexham in North Wales, who was serving in the Women’s Royal Army Corps in London. Their courtship lasted for two years and they were married in Wrexham in May 1952, sanctifying an inseparable bond. They had two children, Elizabeth and John, and cherished watching them grow up and make a success of their lives.

Just before their marriage, Bob joined the Edinburgh City Police in January 1952, where he served for 17 years, rising to the rank of Superintendent. He would recount the many tales of his time as a “Bobby on the beat” and reflected on the years fondly. His hard work and devotion to the force did not go unnoticed when, in June 1969, he was appointed to the post of Deputy Chief Constable of the former Berwick, Roxburgh and Selkirk force, relocating his family to Hawick.

In 1976, Bob was promoted again to the post of Assistant Chief Constable of the newly formed Lothian and Borders force, and just four years later was appointed as Chief Constable of Tayside Police. He fulfilled the responsibilities of this challenging and prestigious post for a further four years when another opportunity for advancement presented itself: the post of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC).

His service in the Inspectorate extended over six years, with the final two years as Chief Inspector of Constabulary. He retired from the force in December 1990 following 39 years of service.

During his long and successful career Bob’s application and devotion to his duties were recognised on three occasions: in 1975 by the award of an MBE; the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) in 1981; and the award of a CBE in 1988.

In retirement, he accepted an appointment as vice-president of St Andrew’s Ambulance Association, an organisation he had been involved with in various roles since 1946.

Bob did not want an obituary in The Scotsman – he did not wish to make a fuss. He was an extremely proud man, but modest too, and always placed family first.

Accounts from former police colleagues paint a picture of a man who commanded respect not by raising his voice, but by leading by example. The stories describe a man who was caring and conscientious, patient and dignified. Identical to his demeanour in his personal life.

He also had a clever sense of humour, and a photographic memory for dates and events and it was impossible to “pull a fast one” on Bob.

In his retirement with Jean, having latterly relocated back to Hawick, he enjoyed gardening, swimming and walking in the park before assuming the role of carer for Jean, who was sadly struck by long-term illness.

Bob’s caring personality made him the perfect person to care for her in her final years, devoting himself to her every need to ensure she was as happy and content as possible. Jean passed away in 2009 with Bob at her side, exactly as she would have wanted.

Having been blessed with relatively good health, Bob was unfortunately dealt his own dose of illness in 2012, when he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. Being less able following the diagnosis his life changed again but he quickly found contentment in a new regime.

His condition remained stable for more than two years when, a week before his death, it began to rapidly progress. Bob passed away peacefully on 13 March, lucid, placid and caring right until the end.