Ian McDonald (civil servant)

Ian McDonald
Chief Public Relations Officer (MoD)
Prime MinisterMargaret 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
OccupationCivil 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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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