Wally Kinnear worked in the drapery trade in his home town, an experience which enabled him to obtain a position with the Debenham Company when, in 1902, like many other young Scots of the time, he headed south to seek employment. He was introduced to sculling by his colleagues at work and initially joined the Cavendish Rowing Club. In 1903 he won the West End ARA sculling championship and repeated this success in 1904 and 1905, after which he joined the more prestigious Kensington Rowing Club. Over the next five years, Kinnear won numerous sculling events along the Thames and in 1910 he won the Diamonds and the Wingfield and, with both these victories being repeated in 1911, became firmly established as one of the world’s leading scullers.
For 1912, Kinnear had as his target a hat trick of victories in the Diamonds and a gold medal at the Stockholm Olympics. He was surprisingly beaten tint he first heat of the Diamonds, various reasons being give for his defeat, the most plausible being that his favorite boat was already on it is way to Stockholm and that he had sculled at Henley in an unfamiliar craft. At the Olympics he won his heat, semi-final and the final without being extended, so retaining the Olympic sculling title for Great Britain. After a short break, he was back on the Thames and in August 1912 won the Wingfield Sculls for the third successive year. Although no more major championships came his way, Wally Kinnear continued rowing until the outbreak of war. He served with the Royal Navy Air Service for the duration and after the war took a keen interest in coaching. In later life he moved to Desford, Leicestershire, where he became a security officer. He died of heart failure at Leicester General Hospital on 5 March 1974.