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Sir Michael Weir

An urbane host and chair of discussions, he set a tone that was focused, but never pious, and always convivial. He had the knack of placing everyone on a footing of equality, coaxing eminent speakers, from government ministers to Nobel prize-winners, to the bar later to argue happily with the participants.

He retained that unflappability which had stood him in such good stead as a diplomat. On a 21st Century Trust study tour to South Africa and Namibia, he stayed on an extra day to go walking on the great dunes of the Namibian desert (already in his seventies, although showing no sign of it). On the drive back to Windhoek a tyre blew out, and the car overturned, leaving Michael and his passenger seemingly marooned in the desert. Rescued by a gang of British tourists, the car barely in one piece, he drove hundreds of miles back to Windhoek, peering through a crunched-up windscreen, and just caught his overnight flight to London

Next day he rang to say, "So I might be in a bit late this morning."