Anyone interested in the post-war history of the Caribbean and its
emergent international institutions, in which Alistair Mclntyre (Sir) played
a diverse and dominant role, will no doubt find this account an interesting one.
He was lucky, as so many of the post-war generation were, to have been born
into a peaceful liberal world in which both social boundaries and political ones
It enabled bright determined people, with luck, to carve out careers for themselves
which few of those without advantaged parents or social systems were
ever able to do before.
With a fourth generation Scottish Grenadian paternal heritage and a maternal
French Martinique one he was a very bright scholar. He was three years
ahead of his age cohort and was in the sixth form three years earlier than
normal. He decided to leave school early and went through several jobs in
which he did not always please his bosses as they expected him to ignore his
auditing role when dealing with their expenses.
Critical to his career was the financial fall from grace by his father who had
built up a prosperous pharmaceutical and trading business during the war
which allowed f^is family to live in great comfort. Unfortunately after the war
Britain, anxious to expand world trade and to reward helpful Canadians,
opened up the Caribbean economy to free trade which ruined his father, and
obliged them to down-size to what must have been humiliating housing
conditions. These worsened when his father died. This no doubt stirred him in
a way that more comfortable personal circumstances might not have.
The cost of free trade is currently under critical scrutiny under the term
"Globalisation". This is an excellent personalized account of how a more
efficient international trade system incurs costs and benefits and can act as a
spur to those challenged by it. Those who bear the costs do not always reap
the benefits, and how does one weigh short-term pain against long term
Mclntyre's next job took him into the colonial Governor's office. As cipher clerk
he had access to the Governor and his career there nearly ended by having to
interrupt at a public dinner an inebriated Governor to secure keys to the safe.
He was subject to a hurricane of abuse which made him decide to resign.
Old colonial hands will be pleased to hear that the following morning the
Governor made an abject apology, and better still told him he would
recommend him for a scholarship to the LSE and even found the sum of £500
to help him out.
This was, as our hero says, "the defining moment in my life" and it will cheer
up OSPA members to hear that one of their Governors receives the following
accolade: "Most people would have apologized and left it at that - but I have
always felt that there was a particularly fine decency in the best of British".
There was little to stop him after that. Of course he got a First class degree at
the LSE, when a First meant something as compared with today when 25% of
students get them. He met and mixed with all the economic luminaries of the
day, and was offered scholarships and jobs in Britain, the USA and the West
After some academic work he became Secretary of CARICOM, Deputy
Secretary-General of UNCTAD, a Deputy Secretary in the United Nations,
eventually ending up as Vice Chancellor of the West Indies. The list of
glittering public responsibilities covers many pages. During what appears to be
a smooth golden career in national and international public service he picked
up a knighthood in 1995, and accolades from the great and the good.
For those with an interest in the history of economic and social development
of the Caribbean in the post-war world, this book is worth reading.