Obituary: Alexander Rennie

Alex Rennie

Chief Constable of West Mercia, author and lad o’ pairts

June 13, 1917 - July 8, 2011.

ANOTHER of the stream of lads from the farms of Buchan, who found success far from home, has died. Alex Rennie, CBE, OStJ, QPM, MiD passed peacefully on Friday 8th July in Ravenstone Care Centre, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire.

Alex enjoyed a busy, healthy life for 94 years which saw him training in America as a pilot where his main mission was to report to Prime Minister Churchill on the appetite in America for joining the war. He qualified as a pilot but could not get his pilot’s licence due to his hush-hush terms of employment which led to the ridiculous situation where, in a country crying out for pilots to fight the Battle of Britain, he was commissioned in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers for active service in Europe.

Alex Rennie’s father was Charles Rennie, grieve at the Ellon farm of Mill of Kinmuck and his mother was Susan (nee Allan), who was John R Allan’s aunt immortalized as “Sally” in Allan’s classic of rural childhood, Farmer’s Boy.

The wartime officer had left school at 14, and at Ellon Feeing market was given the high honour of a job as second horseman at Nethermill of Birness, handling a pair of enormous Clydesdales at that extraordinary young age. In 1930 his fee of ten pounds for a half year was considered riches indeed for a mere boy. Alex worked on farms throughout the North-east in the early 1930s but he didn’t accept that ‘farm servant’ was to be his lot. Studying in the evenings paid off when he was accepted into the Durham County Constabulary in 1937.

As a policeman and therefore in a reserved occupation Alex could have had a safe if unexciting war, but he would not accept that either. Month after month he applied for military service and month after month he was turned down. Eventually the powers that were relented and it was then that he had his personal briefing from the great Winston Churchill and set off for West Point ostensibly to train as a pilot.

After the War it was back to the police where he enjoyed being a ‘Bobby on the beat’ for eleven years. He rose steadily through the ranks and in 1975 Alex Rennie, the Ellon ploughboy, became Chief Constable of West Mercia.

A long retirement saw this busy man burdened by too much time. So at the age of 90, he wrote the book about his life, Farmhand to Chief Constable, a first rate piece of writing, was published in 2009. It is a remarkable story, of a long and happy life in which all its triumphs were earned by hard work, attention to detail and to duty.

Alex Rennie is survived by his wife Lucy (96) His sister Betty (88), son Alexander and daughter Margaret, who came home from South Africa to be with her father in his last few months, by five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren in England and Australia.