Ian McDonald (civil servant)

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Ian McDonald
Chief Public Relations Officer (MoD)
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Succeeded byNeville Taylor [1]
Personal details
Born(1936-03-29)29 March 1936
Langside, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Died28 March 2019(2019-03-28) (aged 82)
Alma mater
Occupation Civil servant

Ian McDonald (29 March 1936 – 28 March 2019) was a civil servant in the UK's Ministry of Defence and was the ministry's spokesman during the Falklands War. [2] [3]

Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom) United Kingdom government department responsible for implementing the defence policy

The Ministry of Defence is the British government department responsible for implementing the defence policy set by Her Majesty's Government and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces.

Falklands War War between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982

The Falklands War, also known as the Falklands Conflict, Falklands Crisis, Malvinas War, South Atlantic Conflict, and the Guerra del Atlántico Sur, was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two British dependent territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands, and its territorial dependency, the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It began on Friday, 2 April 1982, when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it had claimed over them. On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

Life and career

McDonald was born on 29 March 1936, in Langside, Glasgow. [3] With his brother, he attended Glasgow High School. [3] He went on to study law at University of Glasgow and began postgraduate studies in Greek and Italian at the same university. [4] Soon thereafter McDonald was conscripted into the army as a translator in Cyprus, [2] however he had studied ancient Greek rather than the modern Greek which was required for his assignment. McDonald was discharged from the army and joined a law firm in Glasgow. [2] He later moved to Karachi, Pakistan, to work as a teacher for a year. [4]


Langside, meaning the 'Long Hill', is a district in the Scottish city of Glasgow. It is situated south of the River Clyde, and lies east of Shawlands, south of Queens Park, west of Cathcart and north of Newlands. The district is residential and primarily middle-class, and has become an increasingly fashionable address in recent years. Housing stock is mainly of the Victorian tenement type, along with some townhouses of the same period.

Glasgow City and council area in Scotland

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland, and the third most populous city in the United Kingdom, as of the 2017 estimated city population of 621,020. Historically part of Lanarkshire, the city now forms the Glasgow City council area, one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the local authority is Glasgow City Council. Glasgow is situated on the River Clyde in the country's West Central Lowlands. Inhabitants of the city are referred to as "Glaswegians" or "Weegies". It is the fourth most visited city in the UK. Glasgow is also known for the Glasgow patter, a distinct dialect of the Scots language that is noted for being difficult to understand by those from outside the city.

The High School of Glasgow is an independent, co-educational day school in Glasgow, Scotland. The original High School of Glasgow was founded as the Choir School of Glasgow Cathedral in around 1124, and was the oldest school in Scotland, and the twelfth oldest in the United Kingdom until its closure in 1977. It remained part of the Church as the city's grammar school until coming under local authority control in 1872, and closed in 1977, when the private Drewsteighnton School adopted the name. The School maintains a relationship with the Cathedral, where it holds an annual Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving in September. It counts two British Prime Ministers, two Lords President and the founder of the University of Aberdeen among its alumni.

Upon his return to the UK, McDonald was appointed to a junior position in the Ministry of Defence. [4] He was promoted through the ranks until spring 1982, during Falklands War, when he came into prominence as the spokesman for the ministry. Speaking in a monotone voice that British viewers found authentic and reassuring, McDonald gave regular briefings on the events of the war using a teacher's pointer and maps of the islands. [2] [4]

As the British forces recaptured the islands, "McDonald became renowned for his restrained, and at times emotionless, style of delivery." [5] However, he frustrated reporters with his mysterious answers to questions, often quoting William Shakespeare in lieu of a response. In one instance he said "Hamlet, Act One, Scene Two, Line 215" which reads "But answer made it none". On Channel 4's documentary When Britain Went To War (2002), [3] McDonald revealed that he became the subject of amorous attention from TV viewers, including a woman who stalked him for two years and sent him emotive letters. [4]

William Shakespeare English playwright and poet

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

<i>Hamlet</i> tragedy by William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, often shortened to Hamlet, is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1602. Set in Denmark, the play depicts Prince Hamlet and his revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet's mother.

Channel 4 British public-service television broadcaster

Channel 4 is a British public-service free-to-air television network that began transmission on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially-self-funded, it is ultimately publicly-owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the station is now owned and operated by Channel Four Television Corporation, a public corporation of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which was established in 1990 and came into operation in 1993. With the conversion of the Wenvoe transmitter group in Wales to digital terrestrial broadcasting on 31 March 2010, Channel 4 became a UK-wide TV channel for the first time.

In 1986, McDonald was made head of the Defence Exports Services Secretariat. He was in charge of the department during the Arms-to-Iraq affair and his name was included in the 1996 Scott Report, in which Richard Scott criticised McDonald for his "inattention … consistent with his general approach to line management". [3] [6] [7]

The Arms-to-Iraq affair concerned the uncovering of the government-endorsed sale of arms by British companies to Iraq, then under the rule of Saddam Hussein. The scandal contributed to the growing dissatisfaction with the Conservative government of John Major and the atmosphere of sleaze that contributed to the electoral landslide for Tony Blair's Labour Party at the 1997 general election. The whole affair also highlighted the weakness of the constitutional convention of individual ministerial accountability, leading to its codification as the Ministerial Code by the Blair Government.

The Scott Report was a judicial inquiry commissioned in 1992 after reports of arms sales to Iraq in the 1980s by British companies surfaced. The report was conducted by Sir Richard Scott, then a Lord Justice of Appeal. It was published in 1996. Much of the report was secret.

Richard Scott, Baron Scott of Foscote India-born British judge

Richard Rashleigh Folliott Scott, Baron Scott of Foscote PC,, is an India-born British judge, who formerly held the office of Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.

McDonald spent his later years at a villa in Umbria, Italy. [3] He died on 28 March 2019, the day before he would have turned 83 years old. [2]

Umbria Region of Italy

Umbria is a region of central Italy. It includes Lake Trasimeno and Marmore Falls, and is crossed by the River Tiber. The regional capital is Perugia. Umbria is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, culinary delights, artistic legacy, and influence on culture.

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Ian McDonald may refer to:

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  1. Philo, Greg (2014), "The Falklands War", The Glasgow Media Group Reader, Routledge, vol. II: Industry, Economy, War and Politics, p. 83, ISBN   978-1-136-16700-3
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Ian McDonald obituary". The Times. 9 April 2019. ISSN   0140-0460 . Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Ian McDonald, lugubrious MoD press spokesman during the Falklands war who became an unlikely television star and pin-up – obituary". The Telegraph. 9 April 2019. ISSN   0307-1235 . Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Harrison, Jody (9 April 2019). "Ian McDonald: The 'dull' voice of the Falklands War dies at 82". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  5. "'Voice Of Falklands War' Ian McDonald Remembered". Forces Network. 10 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  6. Blackhurst, Chris (1 March 1996). "Whitehall fears Scott 'witch hunt'". The Independent. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  7. Sheridan, Michael (16 February 1996). "Foreign Office excellence threatened by criticism". The Independent. Retrieved 12 April 2019.