Biography of Archie MacKenzie
Archibald Robert Kerr Mackenzie, born in Ruchill, Glasgow, was a multiple prizewinner at Bellahouston Academy and entered Glasgow University in 1933 with a view to a degree in English literature. At the end of his first year he came top in the large Ordinary Moral Phil class, leading to a switch to philosophy. He took first class honours in Mental Philosophy and was awarded a scholarship to read Modern Greats at Queen’s College, Oxford.
Sir Hector Hetherington, Principal at Glasgow, encouraged Mackenzie to apply for a Harkness Fellowship) for further study in the United States. Advice from his sponsors suggested that despite the outbreak of war, he should take up his study of American history and culture at the University of Chicago. In 1940 he moved to Harvard and was soon offered a post in New York working for the British Embassy under the direction of Isaiah Berlin. This was political intelligence work, using his expertise on American society and media to help analyse and influence American opinion on the war, which would be so important if Britain’s war effort was to succeed. This unit transferred to the main Embassy in Washington, where he remained till the end of the war.
His acquired knowledge and understanding of the US media drew him into work on the development of international institutions in the post-war world: in particular, as spokesman for the British delegation to the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks convention in Washington which provided first drafts for the United Nations Charter, and further work for the British delegation to the 1945 San Francisco conference which finalised the drafting of the UN Charter. When the task of finding a home for the budding UN organisation was moved to London, Mackenzie was transferred there to continue his work through to the inauguration of the UN General Assembly in 1946, when he was appointed as First Secretary on the staff of Sir Alexander Cadogan, Britain’s first resident representative to the UN in New York.
Mackenzie transferred back to the Foreign Office in 1949, then in 1951 he was appointed First Secretary in the British Embassy in Bangkok, and moved to Cyprus at the start of the EOKA guerrilla campaign. This was followed by four years in Paris (1957-61), engaged on the transition of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation into the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, with a much wider international membership and aspirations. It was in Paris that he first met Ruth Hutchison, who would become his wife after his next posting as commercial Counsellor in the Embassy in Rangoon. There followed a posting as British Consul General to Zagreb, then as Ambassador to Tunisia (1970-73) and finally British Representative (Ambassador grade) on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, back in New York. This period coincided with the first oil price explosion and the third world ambitions for a new international economic order, in which Mackenzie played a highly significant role in shifting British and allied approaches leading up to the success of the Seventh Special Session of the General Assembly. Two years after retirement, he was invited to ‘assist’ Edward Heath in working for the Brandt Commission (on world development and north-south relations) and contributed to the drafting of the Brandt Report.
Throughout his life, from his time as a student in Glasgow and Oxford, Mackenzie was committed to Frank Buchman’s Moral Re-Armament (MRA) movement based on international Christian and moral principles. This involvement was suspect in some parts of the Foreign Office and but for strong support from the senior officials with whom he worked, he might well have been forced out in mid-career. In practice, his MRA connections proved invaluable in many of his postings and after retirement he spent more time as a leader and participant at conferences at Caux (Switzerland). This also prompted his active interest in tackling the problems associated with the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s: his experience and contacts from the 1970s provided a base for visits to develop broader communication lines in the search for reconciliation.
Mackenzie’s career was a personal fulfilment of his Christian and MRA ideals. His major involvement in helping to establish new international organisations to meet postwar needs, and especially the United Nations, bore witness to his continuing conviction that they could help to address the world economic problems and inequalities.
Archie Mackenzie died on 15th April 2012 in Rowardennan, Loch Lomond, aged 96.
Reference: Archie Mackenzie, Faith in Diplomacy, Caux Books/Grosvenor Books, Caux: 2002.