OBITUARY : Andrew Heath

Click to follow
Andrew Heath was one of a new breed of British diplomat. He was at ease in the traditional diplomatic role, in his case specialising in the Arab world. But he also made his mark handling the complex economic and trade policy issues which have played an increasingly important part in British diplomacy over the past decade.

He grew up in Clapham, an old map of which he proudly displayed at home. From Christ's Hospital he went as a Scholar to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. There he found time to indulge his twin passions of cricket and motorcycles, while taking a First in Classics and acquiring a lifelong interest in the mechanics of language. He joined the Diplo- matic Service in 1975 after doing Voluntary Service Overseas in what was then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe since 1980).

His first job in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was in Middle East Department, covering Iran and Iraq. He spent 18 months learning Arabic before being posted to Amman, Jordan. There he dev- eloped a wide range of contacts, from the royal court to the local souk. Back in London in 1981, he worked first in the Cabinet Office. After a short period handling the aftermath of the Grenada crisis he returned to Middle East Department before being posted to Kuwait in 1985. This gave him his first taste of economic work.

Building on that expertise, Heath then went to Washington for four years, where he did much to influence United States trade policy in areas affecting the United Kingdom. Back in London as Assistant Head of the West European Department, he honed his skills as a manager and policy-maker. His door was always open. As Deputy High Commissioner in Wellington since 1993, Heath won high praise for his clear-minded approach to his work and contact- making skills. In a typically self-effacing way, he contributed much to the success of the Prime Minister John Major's visit to New Zealand for the 1995 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. A promising career was tragically cut short when he was killed in a road accident on his motorbike in New Zealand.

The key to Andrew Heath's character was his utter straightforwardness. His quiet cleverness, dry humour, sound judge- ment, and unfailing kindness and courtesy won him respect and friendship wherever he went. Nothing was too much trouble. No demand ruffled his determination calmly to unravel every problem, without preconceptions or prejudice.

Heath was a devoted family man. He and his wife Christina brought generosity and a sense of fun, as well as a shared love of good cooking, to en- tertaining friends and contacts alike. He took great pleasure in playing with his two young sons, initiating them and others into the mysteries of modern computing; and last year captaining the Wellington diplomatic cricket team to victory over the New Zealand Parliamentarians.

Sherard Cowper-Coles

Andrew Heath, diplomat: born London 17 April 1953; Deputy High Commissioner to New Zealand 1993-96; married 1982 Christina Friday (two sons); died Shannon, NZ 25 February 1996.

Comments