Alan Lennox-Boyd, 1st Viscount Boyd of Merton

Alan Tindal Lennox-Boyd, 1st Viscount Boyd of Merton, CH, PC, DL (18 November 1904 – 8 March 1983), was a British Conservative politician.

The Viscount Boyd of Merton
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
28 July 1954 – 14 October 1959
Prime Minister
Preceded byOliver Lyttelton
Succeeded byIain Macleod
Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation
In office
7 May 1952 – 28 July 1954
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byJohn Maclay
Succeeded byJohn Boyd-Carpenter
Minister of State for the Colonies
In office
2 November 1951 – 7 May 1952
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byJohn Dugdale
Succeeded byHenry Hopkinson
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
8 September 1960 – 8 March 1983
Hereditary peerage
Preceded byPeerage created
Succeeded byThe 2nd Viscount Boyd of Merton
Member of Parliament
for Mid Bedfordshire
In office
27 October 1931 – 8 September 1960
Preceded byMilner Gray
Succeeded byStephen Hastings
Personal details
Born(1904-11-18)18 November 1904
Died8 March 1983(1983-03-08) (aged 78)
Resting placeChurch of St Stephen, Saltash, Cornwall
Political partyConservative
(m. 1938)
EducationSherborne School
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford

Background, education and military service edit

Lennox-Boyd was the son of Alan Walter Lennox-Boyd by his second wife Florence Annie, daughter of James Warburton Begbie and Anna Maria née Reid. He had an elder half-sister and three full brothers, two of whom were killed in the Second World War and one who died in Germany in April 1939. He was educated at Sherborne School, Dorset, and graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, with a BA later promoted to MA. In the Second World War he saw active service as a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve with Coastal Forces.[1]

Political career edit

Lennox-Boyd was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Mid Bedfordshire in 1931 (at the age of 26), and was admitted to Inner Temple, as a barrister in 1941. He was a member of Winston Churchill's peacetime government as Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation from 1952 to 1954. In this post he once memorably opined that road accidents were the result not of the taking of large risks, but of the taking of small risks very large numbers of times.

As a Minister, he opened the third Woodhead Tunnel on the British Railways electrified railway across the Pennines on 3 June 1954.[2]

In 1954, he became Secretary of State for the Colonies, where he oversaw early stages of decolonisation, with the granting of independence to Cyprus, Ghana, Malaya and Sudan. He was in office during the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya, and was persuaded to stay in office by Harold Macmillan after being censured for the Hola massacre. He talked openly about independence for the Federation of Malaya, and invited the then Chief Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman and his colleagues to Lancaster House to discuss the possibility of independence.

In 1955, Lennox-Boyd threatened to resign from his post when some Tory cabinet members wanted to apply immigration controls to New Commonwealth countries. This was in the early period of the post-Windrush era of immigration to Britain, which had seen an unexpectedly large inflow to Britain from non-white races as a result of the British Nationality Act 1948. This act, implemented by the previous Labour government, granted British citizenship to the entire Commonwealth; in 1955, Lennox-Boyd would either accept controls on the whole Commonwealth or none at all. As the Conservatives were committed to the rights of Old Commonwealth citizens to come to Britain, they chose to have no controls.[3]

Following the Suez Crisis of 1956, Lennox-Boyd appears to have made the initial approach to writer Ian Fleming about the possibility of Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden's using Fleming's Jamaican house, Goldeneye, for a rest cure, given the precarious state of Eden's health. Because of security considerations, he initially intimated to Fleming that he wanted Goldeneye for a holiday of his own and, when he resisted Fleming's suggestion that his and Fleming's wife (a close friend of Lady Eden) liaise over the arrangements, Fleming at first assumed that he was planning an extra-marital assignation.[4]

After the 1959 general election, Lennox-Boyd was replaced as Colonial Secretary by Iain Macleod. In September 1960, Lennox-Boyd was raised to the peerage as Viscount Boyd of Merton of Merton-in-Penninghame in the County of Wigtown. This caused a by-election for his Mid Bedfordshire constituency, which was won by Stephen Hastings. He was further honoured the same year when he was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour. Being opposed to the line taken in Harold Macmillan's Wind of Change speech, Lennox-Boyd subsequently became an early patron of the right-wing Conservative Monday Club. Whilst this may appear to contrast with his earlier objection to racialised immigration controls, according to David Goodhart, this was explained by him being "a believer in the imperial idea rather than racial equality".[5]

Other public positions and business career edit

Lord Boyd of Merton held the office of Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire between 1954 and 1960 and Deputy Lieutenant of Cornwall in 1965. He was managing director of Arthur Guinness & Sons between 1959 and 1967, and was a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour and Privy Counsellor.

Mau Mau rebellion edit

Lennox-Boyd was Minister of State for the Colonies 1951–52, making his first visit to Kenya in 1952. Kenya was governed by Sir Evelyn Baring under emergency powers. The policing of those powers was in the hands of Lieutenant-General Sir George Erskine, commander in chief of East Africa Command. Their War Council included the deputy governor and a representative of the white settlers but of no other social, racial or tribal group.[6]

In 1954, Lennox-Boyd was made Colonial Secretary. Lennox-Boyd's early hands-on visit to South Nyeri in the Kikuyu reserves, for instance, was accompanied by Baring and Erskine. (Virtually the entire Kikuyu population had been moved into fortified villages or detention camps, though the statistics were fudged.)[7] They had a lengthy meeting with Chief Mundia. The Chief and his Home Guards were charged with beating several detainees, one of whom had died. Governor Baring quietly suggested to the assistant police commissioner that it would be politically inexpedient to prosecute such a loyal ally. But dropping the charges offended the impartiality of Colonel Arthur Young, the new chief commissioner. Informed of Young's intention to resign on principle, Lennox-Boyd persuaded Young to reduce his objection to a "difference of opinion", thus leaving Baring and Erskine's manoeuvre in place and Lennox-Boyd's reputation untouched. Supporters of Young were subsequently encouraged to take jobs outside Kenya.[8]

In June 1957, Lennox-Boyd received a secret memorandum written by Sir Eric Griffiths-Jones, the Attorney General of Kenya. The letter described the abuse of Mau Mau detainees. The memorandum was passed on by Baring, who is alleged to have added a covering letter asserting that inflicting "violent shock" was the only way to deal with Mau Mau insurgents. It is clear from Hansard reports of Lennox-Boyd's answers to questions in the House of Commons that Lennox-Boyd entirely supported the Baring–Erskine regime and the attitudes that went with it.

The hermetic seal on the flow of information about Kenya was blown by Barbara Castle, who made her own visit to Kenya for the Daily Mail and subsequently reported to the House on the government's failure to recognise "that the Africans are human beings with fundamental human rights as people".[9]

There seems to be no evidence that Lennox-Boyd then or later supported any movement towards the independence of Kenya. From his earliest years in politics he had openly admired the fascist dictators; reluctantly accepted democracy in Britain; supported the British Empire as a natural expression of racial superiority in an unequal world.[10] His later joining the Monday Club was of a piece with rejecting Macmillan's adjustment of Conservatism to a post-colonial future.

In April 2011, a Guardian report[11] described a cache of government documents which might indicate that, despite clear briefings, Lennox-Boyd repeatedly denied that the abuses were happening, and publicly denounced those colonial officials who came forward to complain. The cache, along with interviews with survivors, became the basis of Catherine Elkins's Britain's Gulag: the brutal end of empire in Kenya.[12]

Personal life edit

Alan Lennox-Boyd married Lady Patricia Guinness (1918–2001), daughter of the 2nd Earl of Iveagh, on 29 December 1938. His mother-in-law, the Countess of Iveagh, had been an MP in 1927–35, and he was brother-in-law to Sir Henry ('Chips') Channon, also an MP (1935–58), making them jointly a first mother-in-law and son-in-law set of MPs. Lennox-Boyd and Lady Patricia had three children:

Lord Boyd of Merton was knocked down and killed by a car when walking across the Fulham Road in London in March 1983, aged 78, and, after cremation, was buried at St Stephen's Church, Saltash, Cornwall.[13] He was succeeded by his eldest son, Simon.

Lady Boyd of Merton died in May 2001, aged 83. She gave her name to the Viscountess of Merton cup, awarded at the Cornwall Spring Flower Show.[14]

According to many sources, Lennox-Boyd was gay.[15][16] He is depicted in James Lees-Milne's diary of 1942–1943, Ancestral Voices, as being infatuated with the American aesthete Stuart Preston.[17] His passionate gay love affairs (and their recklessness), are revealed in Channon's diaries.[18] Historian and biographer Michael Bloch describes the former regent and Crown Prince of Iraq, 'Abd al-Ilah, as being homosexual and a "close friend" of Lennox-Boyd. Bloch writes that after 'Abd al-Ilah was killed during the 14 July Revolution in 1958, "the revolutionaries discovered intimate letters from Lennox-Boyd among the Prince's papers, which they released to the world's press."[19]

Arms edit

Coat of arms of Alan Lennox-Boyd, 1st Viscount Boyd of Merton
A dexter hand erect in pale having two fingers turned in and the rest pointing upwards Proper the wrist habited in a close sleeve Azure with cuff chequy Argent and Gules.
Azure a fess chequy Argent and Gules between an abbatical mitre simplex of the second filleted of the third in chief and in base a rose of the second seeded Vert and barbed of the third.
Two squirrels Proper having collars chequy Argent and Gules [20]

Further reading edit

Anderson, David (2011). Histories of the hanged. London: Hachette. ISBN 978-1780222882.

Channon, Henry (2021). The diaries. Volume 2: 1938-43. London: Hutchinson. pp. as indexed. ISBN 9781786331823.

Channon, Henry (2022). The diaries. Volume 3: 1943-57. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 9781529151725.

References edit

  1. ^ Flag 4 by Dudley Pope, London 1954
  2. ^ "The Woodhead Route". Railways of Britain. Archived from the original on 2 March 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2008.
  3. ^ Hansen, Randall (2000). Citizenship and immigration in Post-War Britain : the institutional origins of a multicultural nation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 18. ISBN 9780191583018.
  4. ^ Richard Davenport-Hines (2013) An English Affair
  5. ^ Goodhart, David (2013). The British dream : successes and failures of post-war immigration. London: Atlantic Books. ISBN 9780857899750.
  6. ^ Elkins, Caroline (2022). Legacy of violence: a history of the British Empire. London: The Bodley Head. p. 550. ISBN 9781847921062.
  7. ^ Elkins, Caroline (2022). Legacy of violence: a history of the British Empire. London: The Bodley Head. p. 563. ISBN 9781847921062.
  8. ^ Elkins, Caroline (2022). Legacy of violence: a history of the British Empire. London: The Bodley Head. p. 570. ISBN 9781847921062.
  9. ^ Castle, Barbara. "Hansard 1957". Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  10. ^ Murphy, Philip (1999). Alan Lennox Boyd: a biography. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1860644061.
  11. ^ Cobain, Ian; Walker, Peter (11 April 2011). "Secret memo gave guidelines on abuse of Mau Mau in 1950s". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 12 April 2011.
  12. ^ Elkins, Caroline (2014). Britain's Gulag: the brutal end of empire in Kenya. London: The Bodley Head. ISBN 978-1847922946.
  13. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 7. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 25. ISBN 0-19-861357-1.Articly by Philip Murphy.
  14. ^ "Cornish gardens scoop four trophies". Smallholder.
  15. ^ Double lives – a history of sex and secrecy at Westminster, The Guardian, 16 May 2015
  16. ^ Covent Garden: The Untold Story : Dispatches from the English Culture War 1945–2000, Norman Lebrecht, UPNE, 2001, page 174
  17. ^ Lees-Milne, James. "Ancestral Voices". London: Faber and Faber (1984), ISBN 0571133258, pp. 173–182.
  18. ^ Heffer, Simon. "Henry 'Chips' Channon: The Diaries, 1938-1943". London: Hutchinson (2021), ISBN 978-1786331816.
  19. ^ Bloch, Michael (2015). Closet Queens. Little, Brown. ISBN 1408704129. Page 157
  20. ^ Debrett's Peerage. 2000.

External links edit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Mid Bedfordshire
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
as Minister of Transport
and Civil Aviation
Minister of Civil Aviation
New title Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Boyd of Merton
Succeeded by