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McIntyre, Sir Laurence Rupert (Jim) (1912–1981)

by Peter Edwards

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Sir Laurence Rupert McIntyre (1912-1981), diplomat, was born on 22 June 1912 in Hobart, eldest of four children of Tasmanian-born parents Laurence Tasman McIntyre, schoolteacher, and his wife Hilda, née Lester. Educated at Launceston’s Scotch College and Church Grammar School, where he was captain (1930), ‘Jim’ won numerous prizes for academic and sporting achievement. In 1932 at the University of Tasmania, he co-founded and was the first editor of Togatus, the student newspaper. As the Tasmanian Rhodes scholar (1933), he entered Exeter College, Oxford (BA, 1936; MA, 1954); he was captain of the university cross-country running team. In 1936 he joined the staff of the Australian High Commission, London. He married Judith Mary Gould on 3 September 1938 at St Jude’s Church of England, Kensington.

Returning to Australia in 1940, McIntyre was appointed a third secretary in the political section of the Department of External Affairs, Canberra. In 1942 he was posted as acting second secretary at the Australian legation in Washington, DC, and served as first secretary (1946-47). With H. V. Evatt as minister for external affairs, and with (Sir) Owen Dixon, Sir Frederic Eggleston and Norman Makin as heads of the mission, McIntyre developed his diplomatic skills in dealing with his compatriots as well as with the United States State Department. In his memoir, (Sir) Alan Watt, deputy-head of the mission, referred to him as ‘my patient, long-suffering and uncomplaining colleague’.

McIntyre was one of a group of talented young diplomats that included Ralph Harry, (Sir) James Plimsoll, (Sir) Keith Shann, (Sir) Patrick Shaw, (Sir) Arthur Tange and (Sir) Keith Waller. In 1947 he was counsellor in charge of the Pacific division in Canberra. Counsellor (1950-51) to the Australian commissioner for Malaya in Singapore, he returned to the department as one of three assistant secretaries. He contributed to the negotiations leading to the signature in 1951 of the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty. Again in Singapore as the Australian commissioner (1952-54), he held a key position in Australian diplomacy in the early years of the Malayan Emergency. When he was transferred to London as the senior external affairs representative in the High Commission, his service coincided with the 1956 Suez crisis and its immediate aftermath. Appointed OBE (1953) and CBE (1960), he was knighted in 1963.

McIntyre was Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia (1957-60) during the dispute between that country and the Netherlands over West New Guinea (West Papua). In 1959 he accompanied the Indonesian foreign minister, Dr Subandrio, on his visit to Australia, and shared in the drafting of the controversial Casey-Subandrio communiqué. Again promoted, he served (1960-65) as ambassador to Japan. In 1965 he was appointed deputy-secretary of the Department of External Affairs, a new position created to support the secretary, Plimsoll. His strengths and weaknesses, however, tended to duplicate rather than to complement those of Plimsoll. Although he was highly able as a diplomat abroad, he was, like Plimsoll, less successful as a departmental administrator in Canberra.

From 1970 to 1975 McIntyre was Australia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York. President of the Security Council for the month of October 1973, when the unexpected Yom Kippur war in the Middle East broke out, he showed coolness, fairness, and forbearance under pressure to negotiate a ceasefire amidst conflicting opinions from the warring parties, their superpower supporters and the other Security Council members. Retiring in 1975, he was director (1976-79) of the Australian Institute of International Affairs. He was the inaugural chairman (1979-81) of the Uranium Advisory Council, a body recommended by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry to control and regulate the mining and export of uranium.

Of medium height and lean build, with heavy-lidded eyes and dark, bushy eyebrows, Sir Laurence was widely regarded as a congenial colleague. Modest, mild-mannered and steady, he was a keen jogger for most of his life. In 1975 the University of Tasmania conferred on him an honorary LL.D. He was appointed AC in 1979. Survived by his wife and their two sons, he died of cancer on 21 November 1981 in Canberra and was cremated. The McIntyre Bluffs in Antarctica were named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Watt, Australian Diplomat: Memoirs of Sir Alan Watt (1972)
  • National Times, 26 Nov–1 Dec 1973, p 48
  • Canberra Times, 22 Nov 1981, p 1
  • M. Pratt, interview with L. McIntyre (typescript, 1975, National Library of Australia)
  • L. McIntyre papers (National Library of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter Edwards, 'McIntyre, Sir Laurence Rupert (Jim) (1912–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcintyre-sir-laurence-rupert-jim-15231/text26437, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 17 January 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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