Aubrey Seymour Halford-MacLeod, CMG, CVO, MA, died in Perth on Monday aged 85. A distinguished diplomat, he was always happiest at home in the hill-girt, distinctly Wagnerian setting of Ardvourlie in North Harris. He loved Harris with a passion, and Aubrey Halford-MacLeod will be greatly missed throughout our island.

Aubrey Seymour Halford was born in Birmingham on December 15, 1914. An engineer's son of manifest ability, he won a scholarship to King Edward VI School, and in due course read Modern Languages at Magdalen College, Oxford. Aubrey became a lifelong friend of C S Lewis, the Magdalen Fellow, author, and Christian apologist. It was in 1937 Aubrey entered the diplomatic corps, as Third Secretary in the Foreign Office at a time when international affairs had become excessively interesting.

In 1939 Aubrey was posted to Baghdad. He was promoted to the Office of Minister in State in Algiers in 1943 and personally re-opened Britain's Embassy in Rome in 1944. His superb Italian brought him into repeated contact with Winston Churchill: Aubrey served the Prime Minister as an interpreter and helped Churchill to deliver an Italian address. He remained in Italy till 1946, latterly as Secretary to the Allies' Advisory Council Italy and political adviser to the Allied Control Commission. This was a critical time - Italy was the only country in Western Europe which nearly fell to communism - and Aubrey retained a fund of good stories.

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Victory brought peace to Europe, and serene promotion for Aubrey Halford. He spent three years as PPS to the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, as Britain lost her Empire and struggled to find a role. There followed three years as Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. A two-year posting in Tokyo was followed by missions in Libya, Kuwait (where he was honoured with the KMG), and as Consul-General in Munich.

In 1965 he organised the Queen's visit, the first of a reigning British sovereign to Germany since 1913. As she departed she beckoned Aubrey into her carriage. ''Thanks for such a lovely time,'' said Her Majesty, ''here's a little thank-you present.'' It was the CVO.

In 1966 Aubrey became Ambassador to Iceland, serving until 1970. The Cod Wars were perhaps a dark note on which to end his diplomatic service, but he had been intimately involved with some of the most unnerving tensions of the century.

The Second World War was four days old when Aubrey had married Giovanna Durst, a gracious lady who had spent much of her upbringing in France. They had four children; the eldest son, another Aubrey (always addressed as Philip) has had himself a distinguished career with the Black Watch. Giovanna Halford-MacLeod's death last year, some months short of their diamond wedding, was a crushing blow.

Aubrey and family had long enjoyed Harris holidays when, in 1961, he acquired Mulag House in Ardvourlie. In 1964, with his children's agreement, he appended MacLeod to their surname. He could claim a MacLeod ancestor, via Paisley: in the seventies he spent three years as vice-president of the Clan MacLeod Society of Scotland.

Aubrey was handsome, tall, of great dignity, and immaculately turned-out. His handshake was firm and, till the last weeks of his life, with steady eye and trimmed moustache, he could be intimidating. This was, however, no Sanders of the River; no latter-day Captain Waggett. From 1972 to 1977 he served as director of Scottish Opera. Simultaneously, he spent three years as president of the Scottish Society for Northern Studies and seven as adviser to the Scottish Council Development and Industry. In this year's edition of Who's Who in Scotland, Aubrey nominated Adam Smith as Scot of the Millennium and, with characteristic chivalry, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother as Scot of the Century.

He lived quietly in Mulag House, enjoying birdwatching, or outings with his salmon rod; he owned the rights to the Scaladale river, but Aubrey granted access to anyone who asked nicely. He appreciated fine whisky, great music, and conversation, and was quietly upheld by the simple faith of his Episcopal

tradition. As infirmity took his toll, friends provided companionship and support. Aubrey's neighbours held him in high regard, and the local nurses were fond of him: for one, rather deliciously, Aubrey used to write exquisite sonnets.

Aubrey Halford-MacLeod is survived by three sons and a daughter. Memorial services are planned for Oxford and on Harris, where he will be long remembered. He was once vexed by an Edinburgh journalist, who rang to press him on the irksome definition of Scots identity. ''I'm a real Scot,'' said Aubrey

firmly, and with pride, ''from the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.''