Remembering Brigadier Tony Rickets – our former Chair and a remarkable leader in housing and business

Brigadier Tony Rickets celebrating the launch of the Association’s College Street site in 2003 with Russell Brown MP for Dumfriesshire.

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Brigadier Tony Rickets, 93, the former head of Irvine Development Corporation and Chair of Irvine Housing Association.

Prior to becoming Managing Director of Irvine Development Corporation in 1981, he began his career as a surveyor, going on to enjoy an illustrious military career which began in the Royal Engineers in 1949 and took him worldwide, progressing up the ranks from Captain in Malaya to Chief of Staff of the British sector of Berlin, transferring to Hong Kong in the 1970s with responsibility for Nepal, Thailand and Malaysia.  In 1978 he was appointed as Chief Engineer of United Kingdom Land Forces based in Wiltshire and later that year his promotion to the rank of Brigadier was announced.

During his time with Irvine Development Corporation, the Bridgegate area and Rivergate Retail Park, Eglinton Country Park, the Scottish Maritime Museum and the Irvine Harbourside area were developed. Housing in the Irvine and Kilwinning area was greatly improved, with award winning housing developments and businesses such as SCI and Indy from the USA, Caledonian Paper from Finland, and many other smaller companies set up in the area. Tony retired from IDC in 1995 prior to its wind up in 1996.

Prior to the wind-up of IDC, Irvine Housing Association was set up as alternative landlord and acquired housing stock from IDC via trickle and stock transfer during 1995 and 1996. Tony’s interest in the continuation of IDC’s legacy saw him join Irvine Housing Association’s Board in 1996.  After a period as Deputy Chair, he led the Association through the early noughties as the fourth Chair of IHA from 2002-2006.

While still in its infancy, with Tony at the helm, Irvine Housing Association firmly established itself as a proactive and highly driven organisation with ambitions to increase its stock – and geographical spread.

Under Tony’s leadership, IHA committed to building and regeneration activity on an unprecedented scale. The organisation expanded into East Ayrshire, acquiring homes in the village of Drongan. Following the completion of a major works contract to the homes acquired via a stock transfer in the Stakeford estate, Dumfries, IHA then delivered the largest environmental initiative of its kind in Dumfries & Galloway at that time improving the overall external environment as part of an Intermediate Labour Market Project, which also provided valuable training and employment opportunities for local residents, significantly contributing to the social and economic wellbeing of north-west Dumfries.

At its height, IHA built over 200 new homes across 4 sites throughout North Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway, helping local authority partners meet the growing demand for affordable social housing.

Burying a time capsule in 2003 at the Association’s Sanderson Avenue development with the children from Loudon Montgomery PS in Irvine.

After handing over the reins to Tommy Farrell in 2006, Tony continued to serve on the Board for a further 3 years. His interest and passion for the organisation never dwindled, indeed, he remained an active Member of Irvine Housing Association, attending the Annual General Meetings every year right up until last year to keep up to date with the work of the organisation and to catch up with colleagues.

When the organisation celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2018, Tony was a guest of honour at celebratory events and was invited to contribute to a special anniversary booklet on the history of Riverside Scotland, he said:

“It was a joy to become a player in what I knew to be a splendid team of housing professionals. There was a lot going on. We were looking to build in Irvine, East Ayrshire and Dumfries, as well as looking further afield to link with other housing agencies. IT was just rearing its head, bringing a wholly new and exciting system of management. For me it was exciting, immensely satisfying and I was proud to be part of it.”

Diana MacLean, Managing Director of Riverside Scotland said:

“Looking back at the history of Riverside Scotland, Tony made an outstanding contribution to not only IHA, but the area in general. From the development of the Harbourside and bringing business into the town, to focussing on regeneration of older homes, he was forward thinking and the evidence of his commitment and input to the area is still going strong.

“His background in surveying and engineering played a huge role in those early years of the organisation.  He achieved so much in his 93 years and we take great pride in the fact that Tony was instrumental to the growth of our organisation in the early years and the creation of the houses our customers continue to live in and call home today.”

Jim Strang, Chair or Riverside Scotland said:

“It was with great sadness that I heard the news of the passing of Brigadier Rickets.

“He will be fondly remembered by the Housing Association for his dedicated service to the organisation, its staff and to its tenants.

“I will always remember his kindness to me after my first AGM in the chair and his wonderful words of guidance. He was a lovely man and my thoughts are with his family.”