Obituary by Bob Lowey

I had some 9 years experience of Chinese Martial Arts study behind me including Taijiquan prior to working overseas. I returned to Scotland in 1981 and my first encounter with Ronnie was through his self published “Essence of Tai Chi Chuan” provided by his then Teacher Larry Butler who I sBobRonnieought out in Glasgow for further teaching.
Larry had spoke of him as a shrewd businessman who had organised health festivals throughout Glasgow and who also teaches Taiji. Eventually we met at a class Larry had organised and my first impressions of him were one of an abrupt pain in the butt that needs sorting out! This was to change however.
We met on several other occasions thereafter, mainly at workshops organised by Larry and “clicked” at one in particular – the Lawrence Galante workshop in Glasgow. Ronnie’s sardonic perspective of the chap had me in stitches after the event and I thought yep – this guy has a similar humour as I.
Years went past very quickly after this with much collaboration in events. Ronnie had certain a way of people in ways you don’t expect – he had me as a bloody detective come body guard at a few of his “Connections Festivals” – unpaid I may add! But that was Ronnie and I’m not even going into what some of you poor sods ate in the early years of Tai Chi Caledonia.
Tai Chi Caledonia came about after I had a meeting with old “moneybags” Robinson (He did have shrewd business sense). Both of us had accrued around 20 years experience together in the organisation of public events – Ronnie with Taiji / health workshops and Connections Festivals, and I with Taijiquan / Qigong workshops and Martial Arts Showcases.
Following talks with Serge Dryer in France regarding the influence of drawing together Taijiquan events through Europe, I had the idea of a similar type of event in Scotland utilising the collective experience of Ronnie and I with the format of our organisation skills. This I discussed with Ronnie – the financial backer (did I mention he was very shrewd?) as we had to invest in the hire of a venue and many other costly arrangements at that time. The first event was at a Military Camp in Aviemore that was very extreme in all aspects with four seasons appearing in one day,
Ronnie and I wondered where we could get the cheapest food to feed the participants, the cheapest beers and yet make it a success. It worked out however, but there times we had to ensure there were no artillery in the camp as the food for the whole week was vegetarian!
We had several other venues for Tai Chi Caledonia with many laughs at the predicaments we ended up in including organising on the wing, rushed excuses when there was something we had forgot to do (with the blame going to the venue), and what we had put our poor participants through who usually took it in their stride!
During this period I took Ronnie to Rencontres Jasnieres where I believe he really found his niche in the Taiji world in mixing and networking with other teachers. We also had Ronnie’s acceptance of joining the TCUGB, and the post of editor of the TCUGB Magazine following Robin Johnstone (the previous editor) moving to Canada. I should point out at this time; Ronnie already had the necessary skills in the writing and publication of articles and had close ties with Linda Chase Broda, Taiji Teacher and editor of “Cahoots” magazine.
Our travels to London in the early days of the TCUGB were an adventure. On one occasion, Ronnie had booked the Hilton hotel near the houses of Parliament. He taught Taiji in the Hilton hotels throughout Glasgow and got the rooms for 20% of the cost per night – he was a shrewd businessman. However, on our arrival, it was only one room with two single beds joined together!Needless to say, Ronnie freaked out. He asked me to see reception downstairs to complain and be re-located to other rooms. Unfortunately, the hotel was fully booked and when I opened the door of our accommodation, I was met with the beds separated and all the furniture in the room carefully built up like a barricade between the two beds! Having arrived in London with over two hundred magazines for distribution at the Executive Committee Meeting, we carried them through the city from our hotel, stopping in Hyde Park for some practice on the way – I practiced, he watched the women joggers.
I handed my Tai Chi Caledonia reins over to Ronnie many years ago and watched it grow spectacularly under Ronnie’s management. Since then, Ronnie had always been a close friend and at times advisor.
Many people don’t realise he had an extensive knowledge on contemporary and folk music. He loved Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. But when we discussed music of the 70’s / early 80’s, I often stood corrected from his rapid recall and encyclopaedic knowledge of musicians, songs and lyrics of the time.
We attended a number of concerts together and our last concert was Crosby, Stills and Nash in Glasgow in September of last year. At the end of a magnificent concert, Stephen Stills threw his plectrum across the stage floor, and the band went off stage.
Ronnie started shouting at the roadies on stage to pick up the plectrum for his son and continued to do so until he successfully acquired it with an accompanying beaming smile!
This little summation of our times does not give justice to the man as there are many more tales I could tell over our 35 years or so of camaraderie throughout which time, he taught me how and how not to tolerate certain individuals, to be less trusting, and how to swear appropriately with correct timing!
Watching him lose his battle with the insidious disease of Cancer has been heartbreaking and I was glad to have been asked to write this short synopsis of my time with him as I found it very therapeutic.
Overall, what has Ronnie brought to the Taijiquan and Internal Martial Arts Practitioners and Participants table?
From my perspective, he’s opened up a new world for a great many people.
Through his networking and editorials, he has exposed many new and upcoming Teachers to the world.
Through introductions, gatherings and organisation, he has introduced people of similar likes in the creation of long term friendships and relationships. He’s provided documents, references, and a myriad of publications in the proliferation of Taijiquan and related Arts academia.
He has also brought up a wonderful intelligent and talented son who he loved more than anything.
Conversely and in addition, my only fear is, what has he been scheming and with whom in the next world!!!