Sir Noel Larmour (1916 - 1999):
Edward Noel Larmour, usually known throughout his life as Nick Larmour, was born in Belfast on Christmas Day 1916, and grew up in the Malone area of the city. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (he was awarded a Kitchener Scholarship; his father had seen war service and was later sports editor of the Belfast Newsletter), from where he went to the University of Dublin, where he was a Scholar of Trinity College, graduating with first class honours in Classics in 1939.
He applied to the Indian Civil Service, though joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1940, and was withdrawn by the Indian Civil Service to train at Sydney University. He joined the Burma Civil Service in 1942, but was soon relocated to India due to the Japanese invasion. For Larmour, this relocation involved him and a number of other refugees trekking to India on foot, which 200-mile journey took nearly a month; more senior members of the diplomatic service had been able to relocate rather more speedily and comfortably, by plane. He joined the Indian Army and became a military district administrator in reoccupied Burma. He left the army in 1946 with the rank of Major.
In 1947 he was appointed Deputy Secretary to the Governor of Burma, Sir Hubert Rance. At this time, British policy under Clement Attlee’s Labour government was to work with the Burmese to settle their independence within a short timeframe. The principal Burmese civil leader was Aung San (father of Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate) who had co-operated with the Japanese occupation; this co-operation had led to his imprisonment for a brief period after the war. Nevertheless, Aung San was seen by Britain as the Burmese representative best suited to be the country’s leader: in September 1946 he had been appointed by Rance, to be Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma. On July 19, 1947, Aung San and members of his cabinet were assassinated during a meeting in the Secretariat Building in Rangoon, the capital. Larmour, Rance’s Deputy Secretary, was sitting in the next room at the time.
In 1948 he joined the Commonwealth Relations Office. In this capacity he held a number of posts throughout the world: in New Zealand, Singapore, Australia and Nigeria; he was appointed Assistant Under-Secretary of State in 1964. In 1968 he was appointed Deputy Chief of Administration at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and in 1970 Jamaican High Commissioner and non-resident ambassador to Haiti. In 1973 he became Assistant Under-Secretary of State at the FCO and non-resident High Commissioner for the New Hebrides (until 1976), in 1975, Deputy Under-Secretary of State responsible for Dependent Territories. In this latter role he helped oversee the transition to independence of several former colonies including the Solomon Islands, where his son earned an MBE for his work on land law. After retirement he remained relatively active serving on the Prices Commission and amongst other roles acting as Chairman of the Constituency Boundaries Commission for Bermuda.
In his earlier years, Larmour was a very keen cricket player. A right-handed (and sometimes first-order) batsman, he played for the North of Ireland Cricket Club in Belfast as well as Instonians, the Old Boys’ Association of his school, RBAI; at Dublin University he was Captain of Cricket in 1939. He made five appearances for Ireland in 1938: on 16 July, against Scotland in Glasgow, his debut and only first-class appearance, he batted two innings, scoring 11 and 34; against the MCC at College Park, Dublin, on July 30, scoring 9 and 19; against Sir Julien Cahn’s famous invitation XI at Rathmines, Dublin on 5 August he scored 5; against Australia on 15 September at the North of Ireland Cricket Club’s ground at Ormeau Road, Belfast and the following day at College Park, Dublin, his innings scores were 1, 2 and 2.
Larmour was seen as a painstaking, firm yet patient negotiator, whose affable and friendly manner put people at their ease and smoothed many diplomatic paths; as balanced and fair, though with a sympathetic leaning towards local peoples and hence a sympathy for decolonisation. His attitude to his native Ulster was unpartisan and after the terrible year of 1972, one of sadness. He was appointed CMG in 1966 and KCMG in 1977. He died suddenly in Belfast, on one of his frequent visits there.
|Born:||25 December 1916|
|Died:||21 September 1999|
© 2022 Ulster History Circle