OBITUARY: Lord Glendevon

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The Independent Online
To his undoubted private chagrin - it would not have occurred to so proud and patrician a Tory to whisper a word of complaint to a journalist - Lord John Hope, as he then was, was peremptorily dismissed by Harold Macmillan in the Night of the Long Knives in July 1962. Perhaps he was one of those ministers whom the Leader of the Opposition, Harold Wilson, had in mind, along with Selwyn Lloyd, David Eccles, Charles Hill and David Maxwell Fyfe, Viscount Kilmuir, when he memorably chuckled on television: "Mr Macmillan has sacked half his Cabinet - the wrong half."

No Minister of Works or minister responsible for the heritage before or since has had greater personal erudition about great buildings. It is hardly surprising, since his childhood home was the greatest of all the creations of William and Robert Adam, and much of his early manhood was spent in the marvellous grandeur of Viceroy's House in New Delhi designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. (Nicholas Ridley told me no one knew more about the work of his own Lutyens grandfather than Glendevon. Indeed, as Minister of Works he was to take a particular interest in the repair, care and maintenance of British embassies and Commonwealth buildings round the globe.)

It was an irony (later confirmed to me by Selwyn Lloyd) that what immediately broke Macmillan's nerve was a Tory lost deposit in the West Lothian by- election of June 1962, a drop in the Conservative vote from 39.7 to 11.4 per cent since 1959 - and that in West Lothian, on the banks of the Forth, stands Hopetoun, most imposing of all the great Adam houses, where Glendevon was brought up.

Indeed, when he was ennobled in 1964, Hope took the title of Baron Glendevon - Glendevon being the farm on the Hopetoun Estate near Winchburgh, West Lothian, where he had roamed as a child (and subsequently made famous by the late Brian Cadzow for pioneering work in sheep farming).

Geoffrey Rippon, who succeeded Hope in 1962 as cabinet minister in charge of the Office of Works, says that no sacked minister could have been more charming or as generous to his successor. "He was there to welcome me to the ministry when I went up the steps for the first time at the age of 38. He was exceptionally nice. However hurt he was he did not show it."

In those days the Office of Works (unwisely abolished by Wilson) was responsible for buildings in Scotland as well as England - and many of our great institutions, such as the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Those who are in a position to know recall with clarity all the help they received from central government after Hope became Minister.

John Hope was born into the highest purple of the British establishment. His grandfather was Governor-General of Canada. In the 16th century the Hope family had metamorphosed themselves from successful pawnbrokers in the High Street of Edinburgh to distinguished bankers to the Scottish kings and acquired lands to the west of Edinburgh where they built Midhope Castle and then Hopetoun itself.

His father, the second Marquess of Linlithgow, was chairman of the Royal Commission on Indian Agriculture in 1926-28 and then of the Joint Select Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform. He became Viceroy of India in 1936. Bitterly attacked for allegedly clumsy dealings with Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and the Congress Party, Linlithgow had a bad press and is out of favour with historians. John Hope passionately believed his father to be misunderstood and much maligned and in 1971 published a book, Viceroy At Bay, which, based on the extensive archives in Hopetoun, is required reading for a serious student of the twilight of the Raj.

His mother, Doreen, Marchioness of Linlithgow, was the daughter of Sir Frederick Milner Bt, who served as MP for York and then for Bassetlaw and was of the family of the Earl of Cromer, proconsul in Cairo. Proconsular genes could hardly have been more concentrated in Hope, who certainly was of a generation and background devoted to the public service. His life was further enhanced by marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of the writer Somerset Maugham with whom Hope had a turbulent, but always affectionate and intensely interesting relationship.

He was a younger, and much cleverer twin. His brother, Charlie, the easy- going third Marquess of Linlithgow, with whom John got on surprisingly cheerfully, would say half in jest and wholly in earnest, "Fair shares! I inherited Hopetoun with its problems and what remained of the money - John got an unfairly huge share of the family brains and energy!"

So it was - though to be fair Charlie spent five years in a debilitating German prisoner-of-war camp.

After Eton, where he was proud to be chosen as a Fellow (or member of the governing body) from 1956 to 1967 and about which he took more than an ornamental interest, John Hope went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he read Greats and excelled as a middle-distance and mile runner. He had what Conservative MPs of the early 1960s would call "a good war". Fortunate to be one of the Scots Guards who somehow got out of Norway after the fiasco at Narvik in 1940, Hope was one of the first to land at Salerno and Anzio, being mentioned twice in dispatches.

In the 1945 election he came home in uniform and in the Labour landslide won North Midlothian and Peebles. In 1958-59 I was the Labour candidate for Peebles and was repeatedly told not only by knitwear firms such as Ballantyne's but by many householders that John Hope had been a most kind and caring MP. He had gone to enormous lengths to immerse himself in the problems of the woollen industry and also the paper industry which was so important in those days to Midlothian.

John Hope was one of a limited number of Conservative MPs in the 1945- 50 Parliament who kept the Opposition being an opposition. Lord Boyd- Carpenter, the then MP for Kingston-upon-Thames, says: "He was one of a small band who night after night challenged the Labour government. He was very effective, particularly on economic subjects."

On boundary reorganisation Hope inherited the prosperous Edinburgh seat of Pentlands. Last year, when Douglas Hurd resigned as Foreign Secretary and Malcolm Rifkind succeeded, Glendevon said that he was delighted that an MP for Pentlands had become Foreign Secretary - the position he himself had craved all those years ago.

As Joint Parliamantary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs from October 1954 to November 1956 and in the Commonwealth Office from 1956 to 1957 he took a special interest in relations with India and Pakistan, believing it important that British ministers should make it clear at every opportunity that the umbilical cord had been broken, but that Britain's cultural and affectionate relationship with the former Indian Empire should go from strength to strength.

After a well-remembered period at the Scottish Office Hope became Minister in charge of the Office of Public Buildings and Works in Macmillan's Cabinet until he was so suddenly ejected.

Not sparing a moment to sulk, he threw himself into his own interests, becoming Chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society and then an active member of the Historic Buildings Council for England under the chairmanship of his erstwhile Permanent Secretary Sir Edward Muir. Muir has stated in public and private that Hope was one of the most decisive, effective and know-ledgeable ministers that a department could wish to have in charge.

Tam Dalyell

John Adrian Hope, politician and businessman: born 7 April 1912; MP (Conservative) for North Midlothian and Peebles 1945-50, for Pentlands 1950-64; Joint Parliamentary Under- Secretary for Foreign Affairs 1954-56; Parliamentary Under- Secretary for Commonwealth Relations 1956-57; Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland 1957-59; Minister of Works 1959-62; PC 1959; Chairman, Royal Commonwealth Society 1963-66; created 1964 Baron Glendevon; chairman Ciba- Geigy 1967-71, deputy chairman 1971-78; Chairman, Historic Buildings Council for England 1973-75; married 1948 Elizabeth Maugham (two sons); died 17 January 1996.

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