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Dr Joan Macintosh

Diplomat, author and consumer champion.

Born: November 23, 1919; Died: May 28, 2014.

Dr Joan Macintosh, who has died aged 94, was an unpretentious high-achiever whose modest comment that she had not wasted her life belied her exceptional accomplishments in diverse fields across three continents.

During the Second World War, she worked producing propaganda in the US and on returning to Britain became a successful thriller writer before pioneering the role of women in the diplomatic service, a career that took her to New Delhi as First Secretary in the High Commission.

When marriage put paid to her rise in the diplomatic realm, she threw herself into public service, safeguarding the rights of consumers, supporting victims of crime and becoming the Scottish legal services ombudsman. Alongside these roles she raised a family, wrote more than 40 educational books and was made a CBE and honorary graduate of three Scottish universities.

A passionate adoptive Scot, she was born in Gloucestershire and sent to boarding school at the age of three when her parents moved to New York. She was reunited with them two years later and grew up in upper New York State where she attended Rye Country Day School before returning to England to read modern history at Oxford. After graduating in 1941 she joined the BBC but, because of her American education, soon transferred to the Ministry of Information in Washington where her job involving creating propaganda to encourage the US to join the war. Her supervisor there was Donald Maclean, part of a KGB spy ring that included Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt.

She remembered Maclean with great affection and kept in touch when she returned to London, staying with his mother while part of the UK delegation attending the first European Economic Community and NATO conferences. She also remembered witnessing the shouting when Maclean suddenly arrived home in the middle of the night, shortly before defecting to Russia in 1951.

Post-war, between the late 1940s and early 50s, and using the pen name Joan Cockin, she wrote three detective novels, featuring an Inspector Cam, which were published by Hodder & Stoughton. She also sat, and was the second woman to pass, the Diplomatic Service admission exams, becoming the most senior of the first few female diplomats.

She was posted to New Delhi and loved everything about India. It was there that in 1952 she met her future husband Ian, a Scottish banker. A whirlwind romance followed and within weeks they were married in Old Delhi's St Andrews Church, a union that brought her career to an abrupt end due to Foreign Office rules that barred women from remaining in the Diplomatic Service if they married a non-diplomat.

Undaunted, she embarked on an equally fulfilling life of public service and, though the Government generously offered her an honorarium of £500 in compensation for forcing her resignation she forgot to claim it - the application form was found by a friend many months later in a book borrowed from Mrs Macintosh.

She became involved in charitable ventures and co-founded, in 1952, the Delhi Commonwealth Women's Association which still provides social services for the area's poor and needy. She also began writing educational books and produced four children, all born in India. On one dramatic occasion she was forced to protect two of the little ones from a couple of cobras. Looking out from the house she had spotted the snakes lurking near the youngsters as they lay on a blanket in the garden. She promptly grabbed her husband's shotgun and blasted the reptiles from 30 yards.

She and her husband returned to Scotland when he retired and she began volunteering in Glasgow's Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB). Inspired by the organisation's ability to add real and practical difference to the lives of the poorest Glaswegians, she later became the CAB's regional co-ordinator for Scotland.

This led to some wonderful opportunities, she said. She and her friend Sheila Duffy became involved in a popular Citizen's Advice programme on the fledgling Radio Clyde and in 1975 she was appointed as the first chairman of the Scottish Consumer Council. The following year she became vice chair of the National Consumer Council, a post she held until 1984, and was made a CBE in 1978.

Meanwhile she was appointed to the Royal Commission into Legal Services in Scotland from 1975 - 1980 and to a Scottish Law Commission initiative reporting on reparation by the offender to the victim in 1977. She was also asked by the insurance industry to establish the Insurance Ombudsman's office which she served as the first chairman of its council from 1981 to 1985. She was vice-president of the National Confederation of Consumer Groups from 1982 to 1997 and sat on the Scottish Constitutional Commission in 1984.

In addition, she was chairman of the Scottish Child Law Centre, a member of Victim Support Scotland's council and, for much of the 1990s, was Lay Observer for Scotland, today's equivalent of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, reviewing the way the Law Society dealt with complaints against solicitors in Scotland.

An honorary graduate of the universities of Dundee, Stirling and Strathclyde, she lived for many years in Auchterarder, where she co-founded the local history group, wrote on local history, served on the community council and published three books on ancient Auchterarder.

Predeceased by her husband and their son Gillies, who died of polio in India, she is survived by their children Lindsay, Kate and Duncan.

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