Tragedy was a life changing moment

Richard Bottomely and his wife Anita taken in the summer
Richard Bottomely and his wife Anita taken in the summer

FORMER Brighouse man Richard Bottomley was heading for a career as a scientist until a devastating family tragedy overturned his world and set him on a different path.

Richard received an OBE in the New Year’s Honours for services to accountancy and business in the North East but it was the untimely death of his older brother Keith in a road accident that caused him to take stock and think hard about his future. It also, he feels, gave him the drive to make a success of his life.

Brought up in Lightcliffe and educated at Cliffe Hill Primary School and Hipperholme Grammar School, Richard had two brothers - Keith and Chris. Keith was working as a food scientist at Rowntree Mackintosh in Halifax and was part of the team which successfully developed the Toffee Crisp when he was killed in a head-on car crash near Bradley Bar in 1971 when he was 23.

“Keith was sport mad and was on his way back from watching a football match. He was a clever young man and it was an exciting time for him because he was pleased to have been so closely involved in the development of a new product for Rowntree Mackintosh. It was because of that success that he had his first car - he’d only had it for three weeks.”

Keith’s death occurred at the end of Richard’s first term as a student at Oxford Polytechnic and made him realise that he could not continue with his degree course in botany, geology and zoology.

“It was a life-changing moment for me - as well as my brother, he was my best friend. He had so many interests - he ran for Halifax Harriers and, as a member of the Labour Party, he was keen to pursue a career in politics. I realised I was a bit in awe of him and that I had been trying to follow in his footsteps. I didn’t want to be away from home for three years so I changed to an accountancy course which lasted 12 months.”

While working in his first job in Oxford, Richard met his wife Anita and the couple moved back north. Richard got a job with Rawlinsons, a small accountacy firm in Bradford, but before long he had branched out to set up his own practice, Booth and Co. Within a few years, the ambitious young accountant, by then a father of three daughters, had turned the business into the largest independent accountancy firm in West Yorkshire. Having worked with an impressive client portfolio and built up the practice to five partners and 55 employees, Richard merged the business with the Bradford office of Arthur Young - just ten days before it became the subject of another merger to form Ernst and Young.

In 1997 he was headhunted by accounting giant KPMG to run the firm’s Newcastle office.

“I loved it up there. I became an adopted Geordie. As a city Newcastle is smaller than Bradford so it was easy to get to know people. I enjoyed the challenge of being in a new place and becoming part of the community.”

For Richard that involvement took him into high profile areas. He was president of the North East Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the North East Enterprise Bond, a charity set up to stimulate enterprise and employment in the region, and chairman of the Jigsaw Appeal, a charity which raised £5.2 million in three years to create a children’s hospice in Newcastle.

Two years ago Richard retired from KPMG but, after 25 years in accountancy, he still takes an active interest in the world of finance - he is chairman of Gregg’s bakery pension fund and regional chairman of UBS banking group.

He loves sport and is a director of Durham County Cricket Club and member of Bradford and Bingley Rugby Club. A keen golfer, he also loves walking in the Lake District.

Richard and Anita now live in Burley-in-Wharfedale but he makes the journey to Brighouse regularly to visit his father, Mr Colin Bottomley, in Bailiff Bridge.

“Brighouse is a big part of my life and my heart belongs here. I was completely taken by surprise when I heard about the OBE but am very pleased.”