Obituary: Ronald (“Ronnie”) Sinclair, chartered accountant
Ronnie Sinclair was a distinguished member of the financial community in Edinburgh, serving for 30 years as a partner in the long-established firm of Chiene & Tait. Sinclair was also an outstanding sportsman and from his school and university days played golf and squash to a high standard.
Sinclair was a firm believer that sport, and the participation in sport, was there to be enjoyed. A friend from his school days recalls: “I competed against Ronnie on the running track and always lost. He was an amiable and good-natured person. He wore his many talents lightly. I remember particularly his gracious period as captain at Bruntsfield.”
The father of Ronald McKelvie Sinclair (always known as Ronnie) had initially practised as a dentist in Greenock before retraining and becoming an eminent rheumatologist in Edinburgh. He attended Greenock Academy and then the Edinburgh Academy (1947–57) where he was an accomplished scholar, an all-round sportsman and a senior ephor.
Sinclair was captain of the athletics team and represented the school at hockey and squash. He was Scottish junior squash champion.
Before going up to read economics at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (1959–62) Sinclair did his articles in accountancy with Chiene & Tait. At Cambridge, he was a prominent member of university life representing Cambridge at squash and athletics and rowing in the college boat. Other activities included membership of the ancient dining club the Chess Club (which had nothing to do with playing chess). Such was his involvement in university life Sinclair earned the nickname of Running Shoes Sinclair.
Sinclair then returned north to qualify as an accountant with Chiene & Tait which involved him matriculating at Edinburgh University. While there he gained Blues at athletics and squash. He then joined Chiene & Tait, becoming a partner in 1966.
Sinclair was a meticulous accountant and one executive whose books he audited recalls: “We were a medium-sized organisation but Ronnie was punctilious in all his advice and actions. He would spot an error and then mention it with abject courtesy, suggesting a practical way the mistake could be rectified.
“He was always exceptionally well briefed and professional: a most able and charming man.”
When he retired in 1996 Sinclair remained in close contact with the profession as a consultant and worked part-time as a forensic accountant for the Crown Office.
But it was his commitment to sport in Scotland that many will remember with a very special pleasure. Sinclair was an enthusiastic competitor but it was his abiding love of the game and being involved as a team member – with like-minded friends – that particularly appealed to him.
His financial expertise proved invaluable when he served on committees and his practical advice much assisted both squash and golf. Sinclair acted as treasurer at Muirfield and was captain of Bruntsfield (2001–2003).
At the latter he introduced changes to the categories of membership which have much strengthened the financial position of the club. The former secretary of the club, David Sandford, recalls: “As Captain Ronnie tried to ensure that more funds were spent on the course, in his mind the main asset, than on the Clubhouse.
“I remember once when he climbed Ben Nevis on the Saturday (to be with his brother Martin when Martin bagged his final Munro), partied in Inverness that night and played in the match Southerness v Bruntsfield at Southerness on the Sunday.
“He led the Bruntsfield team to victory.”
Such activity was typical of Sinclair: his energy never flagged. There was, however, a more relaxed and private side as was evidenced when he presented Bruntsfield with a trophy which was to be awarded annually to a member who “has found age no handicap”.
He served on the Court of directors of the Edinburgh Academy, was accountant to Handicabs (which provides accessible transport for people in Edinburgh and the Lothians), worked on behalf of the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending and was treasurer to The Queen’s Nursing Institute, Scotland.
His contribution to squash was considerable. He served as president of the Scottish Squash Association 1974–76, treasurer of the European Squash Rackets Federation and vice president and then president of the International Squash Federation 1985–89. In 1991 he received the Scottish Sports Council award for services to Scottish sport.
As the international president Sinclair was a powerful force in organising and popularising the game worldwide. He gained caps for Scotland at squash between 1967 and 1973 and was a member for fifty years of the Edinburgh Sports Club.
Earlier this year he attended the 75th anniversary of the Sports Club and there is a photograph of the “Star Players”.
In it Sinclair can be seen with a broad and welcoming smile. Many recall that friendly grin when they visited the Sinclair family in Barnton where they had lived for almost 50 years. It exemplified a modest, devoted family man and athlete who lived a very full and active life.
Ronnie Sinclair sadly contacted Legionnaire’s Disease while on a cycling holiday in Spain.
He married Careen Gillies in 1967. she and their son and daughter survive him along with five grandchildren.