Minister and presbytery clerk

Minister and presbytery clerk

Born: April 13, 1938; Died: May 19, 2014

Loading article content

Rev Tom Sinclair, who died aged 76 when he was knocked down by a car outside Waverley Station in Edinburgh, was a greatly loved minister in the parishes he served in Sutherland and in the western isles.

With his shock of thick, white hair, he was a well recognised and popular figure at the General Assembly - which he was attending on the day of his accident - although his shy, reticent manner was more suited to quiet comments in the corridors than speeches from the podium.

He was born in Glasgow, and educated at Netherlee Primary School and then Eastwood Academy. His home congregation was Stamperland.

He had two spells as a student at the University of Glasgow in the late 1950s and early 1960s, working in publishing between them. In 1963 he enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, taking a degree in arts and then passed the licentiate in theology qualification. He subsequently graduated bachelor of divinity in 1993.

During his full-time studies, he was a student assistant at the Braids Church in Morningside, Edinburgh, and then spent his probationary year at Holburn Central Church in Aberdeen.

In 1967, he became minister of Eddrachilis Parish Church, the ecclesiastical name for the parish of Scourie on the north coast of Sutherland.

His understanding of what parish ministry involved was not restricted to narrow ecclesiastical matters but extended to a commitment to service in the community. He was a justice of the peace for Sutherland, a district councillor for Durness and Eddrachillis, and chairman of the Sutherland children's panel.

In 1976, he moved to Martin's Memorial Church in Stornoway, which was previously known as the English Church because it was what the Church of Scotland described as a congregation where Gaelic was not essential. There, in addition to his ministerial duties, he continued in public service as a member and chairman of the Western Isles children's panel from 1981.

A colleague from the Presbytery of Lewis, Rev Hugh Stewart said that, while not born on Lewis, Mr Sinclair had become a well-known and well-loved figure across the communities of the Western Isles.

"Tom's whole life was taken up with the promotion of the gospel within and through the Church of Scotland, its courts, conferences and General Assemblies," said Mr Stewart.

This was an essential part of Mr Sinclair's outlook. He made sure that at every level of the Church, the western isles were not seen as insular in outlook as well as geography but contributed to the Church's life and decision-making processes.

He was a gentle, caring and well known person, much loved for the amiable way in which he carried out his duties in parish and presbytery. Of particular interest to him was the care of those with special needs, which were described as always at the centre of his life and work in the community.

Commenting at the General Assembly, the Moderator, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, who regularly attended meetings of the Assembly and Presbytery Clerks Forum in Crieff with Mr Sinclair, talked of the minister's love for the Church of Scotland and the General Assembly.

"His death is a painful tragedy for his wife and family and will come as a real blow to the Presbytery of Lewis which he was still serving as presbytery clerk," said Mr Chalmers. He had been presbytery clerk for more than thirty years.

Mr Stewart, of Lochs-in-Bernera linked with Uig Church of Scotland, said: "He was a gentle, caring and incisive person.

"He was well loved for the amiable and jolly manner in which he carried out his duties.

"He will be remembered with great affection and thankfulness for the contribution he made not only to the Church of Scotland but also to the wider communities of the Western Isles."

Mr Sinclair retired in 2004, after almost 40 years of active ministry.

Mr Sinclair was on Waverley Bridge walking across the entrance road to Waverley station when he was hit by a car. The incident happened when the Assembly had finished for the day just after 5pm. He is survived by his wife Pam, whom he married in 1969 and their son Jonathan, who lives in Edinburgh.

His son Andrew died in 1999 aged 27. Another son, Matthew Iain, died aged one in 1973.