One of Scotland’s most influential athletics coaches who coached Edinburgh athletes over six decades has died, aged 92

One of Scotland’s most influential athletics coaches - who coached top athletes in Edinburgh across six different decades - has died at the age of 92.
Influential Edinburgh athletics coach, George Sinclair.Influential Edinburgh athletics coach, George Sinclair.
Influential Edinburgh athletics coach, George Sinclair.

George Sinclair was at the helm of Edinburgh Southern Harriers during a golden period in Scottish athletics in the 1970s and 80s, coaching a number of sprinters and middle distance runners who enjoyed Olympic and Commonwealth games success.

George, born in Pathhead and a former pupil at George Heriot’s School, joined the parachute regiment in 1946 as part of his National Service in Germany and went on to live and work in Edinburgh. He ran the Post Office at Goldenacre which was passed down from his parents and his family say he was very involved in the local community there.

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A key moment in George’s athletics coaching came in the 1980s when he secured the sponsorship for Edinburgh Southern Harriers with Edinburgh Woollen Mill, enabling Scottish athletes to access competitions at the highest level in the south of England with support for travel and accommodation, and for coaches to be supported to provide high level coaching for their athletes.

Edinburgh Athletic Club president Moira Maguire described his success as team manager for Edinburgh Southern ladies as “legendary” and said in 1975 he led the club to success in the Pye Cup, the premier inter club competition in the UK.

She said: “He was a trail blazer and his vision and forward thinking has had a lasting impact on athletics in Edinburgh.

“His enthusiasm and passion for and his commitment to athletics was second to none. In the days when facilities were limited he improvised and over the years he gave willingly of his time and expertise to nurture generations of Edinburgh athletes.”

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Standout athletes he coached long term were sprinter Helen Golden and 800m runner Anne Purvis (nee Clarkson).

George’s family told the Edinburgh Evening News that athletics was his passion in life and that he took a major interest in coaching after moving from amateur football into the sport.

His family said: “He coached athletes through six decades and did not stop until he was in his 80s.

“He very much helped other coaches and was a mentor to them. It was important for him that people enjoyed their sport.

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“He was very well liked and was a great socialiser with everyone in the athletics club.”

Mr Sinclair’s family recalled that he was an excellent listener and learned from other quality coaches around him, such as Frank Dick. He was also particularly interested in studying the physiology aspect of the sport and building a good rapport with athletes.

George was also known for applying new ideas to training and did not believe in overcoaching young athletes.

Ill health pulled George away from athletics in the late 1980s and early 90s but he was still actively involved in Edinburgh Southern and he returned to coaching in the late 90s and continued until 2010 when, at the age of 82, he finally retired.

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Athletics was very much a family affair with his wife, Pat, an athlete, coach and official, his son Robert a pole vaulter and his daughters Lorna and Fiona both sprinters and hurdlers.

His grandson, Allan Hamilton, is currently a top Scottish sprinter and long jumper and has the second longest jump ever recorded in Scotland at 7.88m.

Mr Sinclair died peacefully at his Edinburgh home on August 5. His funeral will take place next week.

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