Obituary: George Sinclair, athletics trainer and one of the heroes of grassroots sport

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Passed away: August 5, 2021

George Sinclair, who died at the age of 92, was one of Scotland’s most dedicated and successful athletics coaches who, for six decades, made a huge contribution to the sport he was passionate about. Very friendly and popular, he combined human skills and technical knowledge to allow athletes to maximize their potential while enjoying it.

He got the same satisfaction from training young strangers as he got from working with international athletes. According to fellow trainer Bill Walker, “George was always ready to help any athlete and an easy going guy.” He has also been a mentor to other coaches with whom he has been generous with his knowledge.

George was very well qualified. He has been appointed Head Coach by British Athletics as an Olympic Level Coach, has been a Level 4 coach in Scotland, the highest level, for Sprints, Hurdles, Middle Distance and Relays and Scottish Coach athleticism in these events. In the 1970s he was a sprint relay coach for the British women’s team while at national level he was mostly associated with the Edinburgh Southern Harriers Ladies (later Edinburgh Woolen Mill AC) which experienced many success with him as a head coach, winning leagues and cups in Scotland and the UK. level and producing many internationalists.

He was also a 1962 co-founder of the Edinburgh men’s track club, Octavians AC, which was one of the strongest in the country, and helped develop several internationalists.

A major contributor to the administrative side of the sport, he served as a national team manager and also acted as a stadium announcer, most memorable at the Murrayfield Highland Games.

Although the consummate professional as an accomplished coach, George was a true “amateur” as he was never paid for his services, nor did he wish to be. It was normal that in 1974, his contribution should be recognized by the presentation of the Torch Trophy in London, for unsung heroes of grassroots sport, the Torch symbolizing the Olympic ideals. Further recognition followed with the Edinburgh Athletic Club and Scottish Athletics Honorary Life Membership award.

George William Sinclair was born in Pathhead the only child of Bob and Elizabeth. He was first raised there before moving to West Calder, then to Bangholm Terrace, Edinburgh, where his parents ran the Goldenacre Post Office.

He was educated at Pathhead Primary and George Heriot where he played rugby, but football was his favorite game, playing Saturday afternoon after morning rugby. A lifelong Hibs fan, he often attended matches with his son Robert.

After leaving school, he was first a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries before undertaking national service with the Parachute Regiment in Germany for two years, an experience he appreciated.

Once demobilized, he worked as a commercial traveler with Kay Cards and became a leader of the Heriot’s Athletics Club which he represented as a sprinter while occasionally helping the Rugby Club train in Goldenacre.

By the mid-1960s he had taken over his parents’ post office and expanded his business interests by opening several card shops in Edinburgh, which he ran until his retirement in 1992.

As his interest in training grew he started an association with the Edinburgh Southern Harriers Ladies whose team he developed, later landing a valuable sponsorship with Edinburgh Woolen Mill with a consequent name change. George achieved this through his relationship with Woolen Mill principal David Stevenson, a former Olympic pole vaulter whose fledgling career George had encouraged when David was a schoolboy in Dumfries.

This allowed the club to develop a solid financial base to feature on the UK scene and win the domestic leagues and the UK Pye Cup. Among the many internationalists at the club that George coached were sprinter Helen Golden, an Olympian in Montreal in 1976, a Commonwealth Games multiplayer and British internationalist and middle distance runner Anne Clarkson-Purvis who won silver. in the 800m at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982, later taking the oath on behalf of the athletes of the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986.

In 1955, George married Netta with whom he had children, Robert and Jan, but they later divorced. In 1971, he married former athlete Pat Brown with whom he spent many happy years and had two daughters, Fiona and Lorna.

Outside of his family and athletics, George achieved two long-standing ambitions, owning a Jaguar and a sightseeing trip to the Rockies. Despite a leg amputation in 1991, his zest for life has remained intact. He participated fully in family life, supporting the many activities of his children and grandchildren and was a welcoming host at home. His grandson Allan Hamilton’s recent success in the 100m sprint at the Scottish Championships would have pleased him immensely.

The family vacations included trips to Tenerife and Mallorca as well as Melbourne to visit Fiona while George maintained his musical interests, lately a fan of André Rieu. A sociable person, he liked stimulating conversations accompanied by a good wine or a malt whiskey.

The onset of dementia made life difficult, but thanks to Pat and the support of Edinburgh Homecare and others, George was able to stay home.

Famous trainer and old friend Frank Dick rightly said in a tribute: “George lived the concept that coaches not only prepare the athlete for their sport, but through sport for their life.”

The presence of many athletes at his funeral is a testament to his success on and off the track.

George is survived by his wife, children and many great and great grandchildren.

JACK DAVIDSON


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