Michael Sinclair, stationery manufacturer

Michael Sinclair

Michael Sinclair, who has died at 91, was the head of one of Britain’s leading stationery manufacturers, William Sinclair and Sons, based in Otley and founded in 1837 by his great grandfather.

The firm had supplied Marks and Spencer when it was still located in Leeds Market, and Woolworths before it set up shop in the UK. Its founder, F W Woolworth, had visited the Otley factory, where no-one dared ask him to put out his cigar.

Born in the town and educated locally at Prince Henry’s Grammar and at Silcoates in Wakefield, Michael joined the business in January 1943, but was called up the following year and went on to serve with the Royal Signals in the north west Frontier of India, and in Palestine. After demobilisation in December 1947 he re-joined the family firm.

He quickly became involved in a programme of modernisation and under his leadership the company became a successful supplier and exporter of stationery, much of which appeared under the Sinclair brand name of Silvine.

He was president of the Bradford Master Printers and the Yorkshire Young Master Printers Associations, and served on many national industry committees.

He was also a member of 50 years’ standing and a past president of the Otley Rotary Club.

On retiring in 1991, he handed the business over to his son-in-law, Andrew Howard. Currently headed by his grandson, Paul Howard, it is the only major stationery manufacturer left in the UK. Two other grandsons, Simon and David Medley, are the sixth generation to be involved.

Michael enjoyed a lifelong association with the Bridge United Reformed Church in Otley, where he was treasurer and a Deacon and elder for more than 40 years.

His wife, Doreen, died in 2008. He is survived by three daughters, six grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren.

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