The British Empire Library

The Caribbean and the Wider World:
Commentaries on my Life and Career

by Alister Mclntyre

Gordon Bridger (Central African Federation, UN, ODA, Crown Agents 1957 - 1997)
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 were loosened.

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 benefits?

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 Indies.

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.

British Empire Book
Alister Mclntyre
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