Obituary: Sir Roderick Barclay

Most people who knew Roderick Barclay associated him with Ernest Bevin, whose Private Secretary he was at the end of Bevin's time as Foreign Secretary (1949-51) and about whom he wrote a sympathetic memoir.

Within the Foreign Service he was perhaps best known to my generation of post-war entrants as head of the personnel department (1946-49), since he was probably the first member of the Foreign Office that we new entrants called on. In my case, after sending me off for a spell abroad, Barclay brought me back into his own department where he proved to be a most agreeable boss, educating the juniors mainly by example.

Barclay was a surprising choice as Bevin's Private Secretary since, at first sight, he and his intended master had nothing in common. Barclay was the epitome of the pre-war diplomat - Harrow and Cambridge, fairly tall with a convential moustache, speaking with a slight drawl, addicted to shooting and fishing.

He himself was far from confident that he would win Bevin's approval. But in the event he was probably the most successful of the exceptionally able men who served Bevin as Private Secretary. He had the knack of calming his master down as well as the essential gift of interpreting to the rest of the Foreign Office and to Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors what Bevin wanted to say or do. It is to the credit of both men that they achieved such a close and effective relationship.

There was in fact more to Barclay than met the eye. I recalled that he sometimes gave the impression of being vague or even lackadaisical when I used to go and consult him on behalf of Sir William Strang in the early Fifties about some important incoming telegram. But in a very short time a well thought-out draft reply would be produced and I realised that Barclay was a clever man who chose not to seem clever. I believe that his ability as a senior official adviser came out especially in the early Sixties when he was one of Edward Heath's very strong team for the negotiations in Brussels to attempt to join the EEC.

Barclay's career in the service ended with his two embassies, first to Denmark and then to Belgium for five years, where he and his wife occupied the delightful house which was then the embassy, both comfortable to live in and well adapted for diplomatic entertainment. Lady Barclay was an admirable hostess, dignified, considerate and also very competent - even inducing George Brown to behave with reasonable decorum when staying at the embassy.

The Barclays undertook several demanding social entertainments during their time in Brussels, including a State visit by the Queen in 1966 and the ball which formed part of the ceremonies commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. This took place on the anniversary of the Duchess of Richmond's famous ball on the eve of the Batle of Quatre Bras, and was a very brilliant affair.

Nor did they neglect the export promotion side of the embassy's duties. It was during a "British week" in aid of exports that Lady Barclay demonstrated her equestrian skill by driving a Whitbread's two-horse brewer's dray around the Park Royal - an unusual feat for an ambassadress.

After retirement in 1969 Barclay resumed touch with the family bank for which he had originally been destined and became chairman of Barclays Bank in France as well as taking on various other business commitments. He then had greater leisure to enjoy family life at his home in Buckinghamshire and to shoot and fish there and in various other parts of England and Scotland. He was a fine shot and maintained his skill to a very late age. Indeed he retained all his faculties to a late age and kept up his interest in his old service through one of his daughters, who had married a diplomat.

Roddy Barclay was an exceptionally nice man, engagingly modest but with a certain Harrovian panache which carried him through some awkward situations.

Alan Campbell

Roderick Edward Barclay, diplomat: born 22 February 1909; CMG 1948, KCMG 1955; CVO 1953, KCVO 1957, GCVO 1966; married 1934 Jean Gladstone (died 1996; one son, three daughters); died 24 October 1996.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
News
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star