Obituary: A. W. McIntosh

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The Independent Online
Albert William McIntosh, industrialist: born 29 July 1904; married 1932 Jenny Britton (died 1989; one son, one daughter); died 10 February 1994.

A. W. McINTOSH was one of the last surviving of his generation of left-wing intellectuals.

Born in 1904, he was the son of a Jedburgh grocer and his mother had worked in the Dundee jute mills when young. Aged 13, he won the top Borders bursary to George Watson's College, Edinburgh. Later, while still a history student at Edinburgh University, he helped the Labour Club secretary, Jennie Lee, run the General Strike committee rooms in Leith. He pursued his postgraduate studies in London, where he joined the 1917 Club (at which he met his future wife, Jenny Britton) and, later, the Communist Party.

During the Thirties he worked as a film editor for the Empire Marketing Board under John Grierson, as (the first) market researcher with the Erwin Wasey advertising agency and, from 1932 to 1947, as a management consultant with Harold Whitehead and Partners. He was simultaneously a Communist Party activist, becoming North London industrial organiser for the London District Committee, and contributing, as AW McLaren, to the Daily Worker. In 1930 he visited the Soviet Union with the Fabian Group.

During the Second World War he became a consultant on production methods for Aero Engines, Bristol, and in 1947 he became Marketing Manager for Mars in Slough, where he remained until 1965, by which time he was General Manager in overall control of the British operation. Forrest Mars would have liked him to run the international business from Washington DC, but McIntosh preferred to become first Professor of Marketing at the new London Business School, a post he held from 1965 to 1970.

McIntosh's success in the academic and manufacturing fields never weakened his commitment to an egalitarian society, and what might seem a contradictory set of allegiances and interests was not felt as such by him. He believed in the importance of a strong economy for Britain, which for him implied central planning such as operates in large commercial and manufacturing concerns. He was also proud of Mars as one of the most progressive firms in the country.

His political beliefs and his manufacturing experience came together in the 1960s, long after he had left the Communist Party, when he was able to contribute his skills to Harold Wilson's Labour government through his membership of the Consumer Council and of the Post Office National Economic Development Council, becoming chairman of the latter's working party on data transmission. For these contributions he was appointed OBE in 1970.

After he retired, he returned to historical research, on the regicides of the Commonwealth period, and became an expert in this field. He published journal articles, a monograph for the House of Lords Record Office and new entries for the Dictionary of National Biography. This was only one aspect of his wide-ranging cultural interests.

'Mac' 's puckish, humorous face remained youthful-looking even in extreme old age. He had had polio as a child and his head and strong shoulders seemed too powerful for his foreshortened body with the severe limp about which he never complained. This stoicism was part and parcel of his principled approach to life.

He was a thoroughgoing rationalist, a believer in progress, a committed atheist. He relished an argument, since for him progress occurred through the clash of ideas, yet his rationalism was an expression of the view that civilised behaviour comes about through the integration of thought and emotion.

That was never more movingly clear than on the occasion of Jenny McIntosh's funeral in 1989. The secular ceremony Mac planned began with his proud announcement that this was a socialist funeral. Its centre was the wonderful peroration he gave describing his long life with Jenny, concluding with the simple words: 'She was a good woman'.

Mac was a good man.