Scots-born diplomat; Born December 23, 1918; Died June 22, 2007. Eleanor Emery, who has died at the age of 88, was a Scottish-born diplomat and widely-respected figure throughout the Commonwealth. She was appointed British High Commissioner to Botswana during the heady days of detente between white-ruled and black-ruled Africa in the 1970s.

Emery became the first woman to be appointed head of a mission in the British diplomatic service. She went to Botswana at a time when South Africa - then ruled by the all-white Nationalist Party - was seeking to end decades of isolation while preserving its own position as a reformer of apartheid, which it had set in cement when it came to power in 1948.

Eleanor Jean Emery was born in Glasgow at the end of the First World War. Her father, like so many other Scots, had emigrated to Canada and, when war came in 1914, he joined the Canadian Army, serving in France and Belgium. After Emery matriculated in 1936, she was sent back to Scotland to live with an aunt and attend Glasgow University, where she took a degree in constitutional history.

In 1941, she applied to join the administrative class of the civil service and was appointed to an assistant principal post in the Dominions Office in London. Her long-standing friend and former Permanent Secretary at the Botswana Ministry of Local Government, Michael Williams, said it was not long before her talents as a speaker, writer, thinker and diplomat were spotted.

After being posted to the High Commission in Ottawa in 1945, Emery returned to London, where she joined the Commonwealth Relations Office. New ideas about how the old Empire could be repackaged as the new Commonwealth were on the drawing board and Emery was in her element as an original thinker and political innovator.

She was appointed private secretary to Patrick Gordon Walker (Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs) and gained experience as a future high-flying diplomat in India, South Africa and, again, Canada before her appointment in 1973 as High Commissioner to Botswana.

One of her pet loves was the Scottish Livingstone Mission Hospital. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, had used his home in the then Bechuanaland as a clinic where he treated sick Africans - much to the annoyance of most local pioneer Afrikaners. Today, the hospital is well-equipped and serves some of the needs of a national population of 1.7 million in a country blessed with diamonds but riddled with HIV and Aids.

Mr Williams said that her desire to serve the people of Botswana continued after her retirement as High Commissioner in 1977. She was a founder member of the UK-Botswana Society whose chairman today is the grandson of Sir Seretse Khama, founder of modern Botswana and that country's first president.

Alan Tilbury CBE, who was attorney general of Botswana for three years after its independence in 1966, recalled: "She was a remarkable woman who strengthened British-Botswana relations at a difficult time."

Derek Ingram, writer and author about the multicultural "club" of former British colonies, dominions and protectorates, added: "Eleanor was a fine woman and massively respected throughout the Commonwealth which she helped to promote and popularise after the Second World War. "Her achievements in Africa and elsewhere will not be forgotten and she was a founder of the UK-Botswana Society which promotes good relations between the two sister Commonwealth nations."

Until the end, Emery was involved in charity fund-raising and she stayed in touch with old African friends. She monitored developments in Botswana, delighting in staying in touch with people she had served well for a long time.