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John Maclay, 1st Viscount Muirshiel

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The Viscount Muirshiel
1962 portrait of Maclay by Herbert James Gunn.
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
13 January 1957 – 13 July 1962
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byHon. James Stuart
Succeeded byMichael Noble
Minister of State for the Colonies
In office
18 October 1956 – 13 January 1957
Prime MinisterAnthony Eden
Preceded byJohn Hare
Succeeded byJohn Drummond
Minister of Civil Aviation
In office
31 October 1951 – 7 May 1952
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byDavid Rees-Williams
Succeeded byAlan Lennox-Boyd
Chairman of the National Liberal Party
In office
Preceded byStanley Holmes
Succeeded byJames Duncan
Member of Parliament
for West Renfrewshire
In office
23 February 1950 – 25 September 1964
Preceded byThomas Scollan
Succeeded byNorman Buchan
Member of Parliament
for Montrose Burghs
In office
5 July 1940 – 3 February 1950
Preceded byCharles Kerr
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born(1905-10-26)26 October 1905
Glasgow, Scotland
Died17 August 1992(1992-08-17) (aged 86)
Kilmacolm, Scotland
Political partyNational Liberal
Scottish Unionist
Betty Astley
(m. 1930; died 1974)
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

John Scott Maclay, 1st Viscount Muirshiel, KT, CH, CMG, PC, DL (26 October 1905 – 17 August 1992) was a British politician, sitting as a National Liberal and Conservative Member of Parliament before the party was fully assimilated into the Unionist Party in Scotland in the mid-1960s.[1]

Lord Muirshiel served as Secretary of State for Scotland from 1957 to 1962 within Harold Macmillan's Conservative government, having held a number of junior ministerial posts beforehand. In 1964, he was elevated to the House of Lords.

Background and education


Maclay was born in Glasgow in 1905, the fifth son of Joseph Paton Maclay, 1st Baron Maclay, and the younger brother of Joseph Maclay, 2nd Baron Maclay.[2][3] He was educated at Winchester and Trinity College, Cambridge, and was bowman in the victorious Cambridge boat in the 1927 Boat Race.[citation needed] At Cambridge, he was also a member of the University Pitt Club.[4]

Political career


In 1940 Maclay was elected in a wartime by-election as Member of Parliament (MP) for Montrose Burghs.[5] During the Second World War, he led the British Merchant shipping Mission to Washington, D.C., leading to his appointment to the Order of St Michael and St George as a Companion (CMG) in the 1944 Birthday Honours.[6] In 1945 he briefly served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Production.[citation needed] He retained his Montrose seat at the 1945 general election.[7] During the 1945 to 1951 Labour government, he led the National Liberals in the House of Commons.[citation needed] The Montrose Burghs constituency was abolished for the 1950 general election, and Maclay was instead returned for West Renfrewshire,[8] a seat he held until 1964. He served under Winston Churchill as Minister of Civil Aviation and Minister of Transport between October 1951 and May 1952. In 1952 he was admitted to the Privy Council.

Maclay remained out of office until October 1956 when he was appointed Minister of State for the Colonies by Sir Anthony Eden. When Harold Macmillan became Prime Minister in January 1957, he was made Secretary of State for Scotland with a seat in the cabinet. He continued in this post until July 1962, when he was a victim of the "Night of the Long Knives", when one-third of the Cabinet lost their ministries. In 1964 Maclay was raised to the peerage as Viscount Muirshiel, of Kilmacolm in the County of Renfrew.[9] He had been made a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in 1962[10] and was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1973.[11] From 1967 to 1980 he served as Lord-Lieutenant of Renfrewshire.[2]

Personal life


Lord Muirshiel married Betty, daughter of Delaval Graham L'Estrange Astley, in 1930; they were married until her death in 1974.[2] Lord Muirshiel died from heart failure at his home in Kilmacolm on 17 August 1992, at the age of 86.[2] He had no children, and the viscountcy died with him.[3] He is buried alongside a number of family members including the Barons Maclay in the Mount Zion Church graveyard in Quarrier's Village near Kilmacolm in his former West Renfrewshire constituency.[citation needed]

See also



  1. ^ "Obituary: Viscount Muirshiel | The Independent | The Independent". Independent.co.uk. 20 August 1992. Archived from the original on 13 June 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Harvie, Christopher (2004). "Maclay, John Scott, Viscount Muirshiel (1905–1992), businessman and politician". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/51247. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b thepeerage.com John Scott Maclay, 1st Viscount Muirshiel
  4. ^ Fletcher, Walter Morley (2011) [1935]. The University Pitt Club: 1835-1935 (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-107-60006-5.
  5. ^ "No. 34892". The London Gazette. 9 July 1940. p. 4170.
  6. ^ "No. 36544". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 June 1944. p. 2569.
  7. ^ "No. 37238". The London Gazette. 24 August 1945. p. 4296.
  8. ^ "No. 38851". The London Gazette. 28 February 1950. p. 1044.
  9. ^ "No. 43383". The London Gazette. 17 July 1964. p. 6097.
  10. ^ "No. 42736". The London Gazette. 20 July 1962. p. 5807.
  11. ^ "No. 45963". The London Gazette. 27 April 1973. p. 5331.
  • Torrance, David, The Scottish Secretaries (Birlinn 2006)
Party political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the National Liberal Party
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Montrose Burghs
Constituency abolished
Preceded by Member of Parliament for West Renfrewshire
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Civil Aviation
Preceded by Minister of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for Scotland
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Lord-Lieutenant of Renfrewshire
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Muirshiel