On Tuesday 24 July, Trading Standards and consumer protection lost one of its most knowledgeable and dedicated professionals, as well as one of its most ebullient and irreverent characters. After a 50-year career serving variously as an Inspector, Service Manager, Chief Inspector, Lecturer, Tutor, and Examiner, Robert Holmes-Henderson died suddenly, aged 71. Robert was also a published author in his other field of expertise, Quality Assurance.
Robert was born in Hamilton, Scotland, the youngest son of a long-established and well-known Lanarkshire family. He was educated at Hamilton Academy and on completion of his schooling he went straight to work, joining the Trading Standards Department of Strathclyde Regional Council as an apprentice. Several years later, Robert matriculated at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, where he studied part-time for a BSc in Food Science.
Upon graduation, he was appointed to the Trading Standards Department at the Hamilton Office in Lanark Sub-Region where he remained for many years – albeit that the authority changed to South Lanarkshire on the disaggregation of the Regional Council. While working full-time, Robert undertook a part-time doctoral research programme and was awarded a PhD in Commercial and Industrial Economics in the early 1990s (no mean feat while also parenting a small child!). Shortly thereafter, he was awarded a Fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Quality Assurance.
Robert had a great interest in Metrology and quality systems and his tremendous technical skill in these areas was apparent to all who knew him professionally. He appreciated both the beauty and the science of the subjects. Such was his expertise that he was invited to lecture on these subjects at Queen’s College Glasgow (now Glasgow Caledonian University), a role which brought him huge pleasure and fulfilment. His vivid and engaging style of teaching, full of practical real-world examples, will be remembered by generations of trainees from all over the UK. His skill and knowledge led to numerous publications which have made significant and original contributions to the fields of Metrology and quality systems. Since school, Robert had a great love for, and command of, English. He will be remembered by his many former students for the clarity of his exposition and grammatical finesse, both of which enhanced his scholarship.
In the early years of the 21st century Robert left the local authority and became a consultant in Trading Standards. He spent the next 20 years working with colleagues in Aberdeen City, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Cumbria, East Lothian, Essex, Luton, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire and elsewhere. He continued working as a consultant into his seventies. He enjoyed the variety of these assignments, particularly those which involved farm visits. Robert came from farming stock and had spent much time in his youth on farms. This gave him a distinct advantage when conducting these inspections; he could communicate authentically with agricultural audiences.
As a colleague Robert was conscientious, reliable and a stickler for accuracy – but great fun. He was forthright in expressing his opinions and did not suffer fools gladly. His generosity to colleagues took the form of wise counsel, practical assistance and a regular supply of home-made tablet, fudge, marmalade and preserves. Known to many as ‘Dr Bob’, he used to spread joy in a gloomy office on a Monday morning via sweet treats!
Robert’s interests were not confined to Trading Standards; he loved to cook and was seldom happier than when sharing the fruits of his culinary labours with others. He was widely cultured, well-read and intellectually curious. He adored Gilbert and Sullivan and was a Classic FM super-fan. He worked tirelessly for his many favoured charities and gave his time and energy, gladly, to promote them.
Robert is survived by his wife of 43 years Maureen, his elder brother Ian, daughter Arlene, son-in-law Matthew and granddaughter Olympia. In the weeks before Robert’s death, Arlene was awarded an MBE for Services to Education in the King’s Birthday Honours 2023 and was promoted to Full Professor at Durham University. Robert took great pride in these achievements.
He will be remembered with affection as a kind, faithful and generous friend; a unique and effervescent personality, a valued colleague, a pillar of strength in one’s hour of need, and a great raconteur. To us all a sad loss indeed.