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Sir Alister Donald Miles McIntosh, KCMG
(November 29, 1906 - November 30, 1978) New Zealand

Alister McIntosh



McIntosh was born in Picton, and educated at Marlborough College and Victoria University of Wellington, where he earned an MA in History in 1930. He originally worked in the Department of Labour, before joining the Parliamentary Library. He studied librarianship for several years, writing a report that led to the formation of the National Library. He was actively involved in the Institute of Pacific Relations, and was one of the founders of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs. McIntosh worked and was close to such intellectuals as Dr William Sutch, Frank Corner, and eminent historian J.C. Beaglehole.

In 1935, Carl Berendsen, the head of the Prime Minister's department, recruited McIntosh as a research officer, and effectively became Berendsen's deputy. During the war years, McIntosh chaired the economic stabilisation committee, and worked closely with Prime Minister Peter Fraser. In 1943, McIntosh succeeded Berendsen as secretary of the War Cabinet, and head of the newly-established Department of External Affairs, the precursor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

McIntosh took a key role in the establishment of the United Nations, along with Berendsen, who by that stage was New Zealand's Ambassador to Washington and the United Nations in New York.

McIntosh was nominated to the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1965, but withdrew due to ill-health. He retired as Secretary of Foreign Affairs in 1966 (he was succeeded by George Laking), but then established New Zealand's posting in Italy, serving as ambassador there until 1970. In retirement, McIntosh served as Chairman of the Historic Places Trust, Chairman of the Alexander Turnbull Library, a trustee of the National Library, and Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission during the transition to colour television.

McIntosh served as the principal foreign policy adviser to Prime Ministers Peter Fraser, Sidney Holland, Keith Holyoake, and Walter Nash. He was awarded the CMG in 1957, and a KCMG in 1973.


One of New Zealand's most respected post-WW2 diplomats, the secretary for external affairs who created the NZ Foreign Service, was most likely kicked out of the running to become the first Secretary General of the re-vamped Commonwealth because of his homosexuality, research by James McNeish has revealed.

Writing about Cold War purges of the early NZ Foreign Service in this month's North and South magazine, McNeish notes that Alister McIntosh was a closeted homosexual whose sexuality probably came to the attention of his political masters after he visited a Singapore gay bar in 1950. The bar was raided by British police.

Fifteen years later, after protecting many fellow diplomats from generally unfounded charges of communism and 'unreliability,' reflections of McCarthy-style witch hunts in the USA and Britain, McIntosh's name was withdrawn from the top of the selection list after NZ Prime Minister Sir Keith Holyoake succumbed to British pressure.

McIntosh had an exemplary record of service in WW2, spoke several languages and, ironically, amongst his many accomplishments as a senior civil servant was removing the vetting of security clearances from the Police, who had little expertise in the role, and creating a more professional security operation which became our Security Intelligence Service. He later served as NZ ambassador to Rome, was knighted in 1973 and died five years later. Until the late 1900s homosexuality, closeted or otherwise, was believed to make a person vulnerable to blackmail and many prominent gay westerners were secretly barred from high level public service or demoted if their homosexuality became known.

By the 1970s attitudes to homosexuality vis a vis diplomacy and security risks had started to change and the first of several openly gay NZ diplomats subsequently posted abroad was author and poet Witi Ihimaera, who was posted to Canberra, New York and Washington DC.


Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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