Obituary for a sociable lawyer best remembered as Professor of Conveyancing and a Diploma teacher at Strathclyde University

The sudden death of John Sinclair shocked and saddened all who knew him. John had a great capacity for friendship, as the vast turnout at his funeral service in Crail Parish Church bore witness. It was a fitting tribute to a fine man. His wife Sandra, to whom he was utterly devoted, said to me: “You probably knew him better than most – always late, always untidy, surrounded by papers and enormous fun. He really did find life a bit of a joke.” The warmth of his personality infused every gathering of which he was part.

He was educated at Craigholme School – it amused him greatly that he was one of the few boys to have attended this all-girls school, albeit in the nursery class – Glasgow Academy and Strathallan. He graduated BA at Queen’s University Belfast and LLB at Glasgow University. He practised as a solicitor with Leslie Wolfson & Co and then on his own account. He was Clerk, Treasurer and Fiscal of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow from 1983-1993. He was made an Honorary Member of the Faculty in 1997. For more than 30 years he edited the Memorandum Book, known as “the Wee Red Book”, published by the Scottish Law Agents Society. After retirement, he continued this much appreciated task and had the next edition in preparation at the time of his death.

However John Sinclair’s true metier was as a teacher. He was a lecturer in conveyancing at Strathclyde University from 1970, and, to popular acclaim, was appointed the first Professor of Conveyancing there in 1992. He was very interested in postgraduate legal education, feeling keenly that there was a gap between university study and the practice of the law. He became the first Director of the Diploma in Legal Practice at Strathclyde in 1981 and latterly, when postgraduate legal education in Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities combined, he was the first Director of the Glasgow Graduate School of Law.

He was author of the Handbook of Conveyancing Practice in Scotland, now in its fifth edition. The last edition he edited jointly with his son, Euan. An extract from the preface speaks volumes: “I have taught many students, more than I can easily remember. It gives me great pleasure to see so many of them achieving so much. Every year has been quite different from the one before, but even in the worst times of student discontent I have found most students to be courteous, attentive, diligent, hardworking, and friendly; in short, totally different from the concept of the student beloved of modern mythology. I therefore wish to dedicate this book to my students, past, present, and – hopefully – future.”

His students, in turn, loved him and responded by positive attendance at his lectures and tutorials. He willingly spent a vast amount of his private time assisting them with their studies and ensuring that they were placed in traineeships. He cared. Many had particular cause to be grateful to him. The university recognised his unique contribution by appointing him Emeritus Professor in 2002.

He was a very clubbable gentleman. He was a past President of the Strathallian Club, the Glasgow Juridical Society, the Bridgeton Burns Club and Whitecraigs Rugby Club; and a member of Whitecraigs Tennis Club, the Royal Automobile Club and then the Western Club in Glasgow, the New Golf Club of St Andrews, and Crail Golfing Society. The “Vicar” always had time for a word – and he was always laughing and smiling.

He loved the ambience of sports clubs. His administrative talents were made full use of by Whitecraigs Rugby Club, where he was match secretary for over 25 years.

While John would regard himself as an administrator and not a player, he found taking part in sport enormous fun. A combination of circumstances allowed me to play rugby, football, golf, tennis and squash with him. I am not certain he ever broke sweat – but he was always in a position to give a full commentary as events unfolded. He turned out in the no 10 shirt for our office football team and was thereafter christened “Eusebio”. He satisfactorily masterminded, without leaving the centre circle, an unexpected victory against our old Glasgow rivals.

But for John family came first. He was married to Sandra for 42 happy years. They lived in Whitecraigs until 2002 and thereafter in Crail. His children, Euan and Caroline, were a great source of pride to him, and he liked nothing better than the company of his four grandchildren.

John suffered a stroke in February 2003. He fought this with great tenacity and courage and made a wonderful recovery, although he did have some difficulty with his speech thereafter. However, with the assistance of Sandra and his constant smiling, he continued to be the life and soul of every social gathering.

John, your many friends salute your memory. I was privileged to be one of them. We shall all miss you.

Brian A Lockhart

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