John Maclay, 1st Viscount Muirshiel

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Muirshiel
File:John Scott Maclay.jpg
1962 portrait of Maclay by Herbert James Gunn.
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
13 January 1957 – 13 July 1962
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Hon. James Stuart
Succeeded by Michael Noble
Minister of State for the Colonies
In office
18 October 1956 – 13 January 1957
Prime Minister Anthony Eden
Preceded by John Hare
Succeeded by John Drummond
Minister of Civil Aviation
In office
31 October 1951 – 7 May 1952
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Preceded by David Rees-Williams
Succeeded by Alan Lennox-Boyd
Chairman of the National Liberal Party
In office
Preceded by Stanley Holmes
Succeeded by James Duncan
Member of Parliament
for West Renfrewshire
In office
23 February 1950 – 15 October 1964
Preceded by Thomas Scollan
Succeeded by Norman Buchan
Member of Parliament
for Montrose Burghs
In office
5 July 1940 – 23 February 1950
Preceded by Charles Kerr
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born 26 October 1905
Died 17 August 1992 (aged 86)
Nationality British
Political party National Liberal
Scottish Unionist
Spouse(s) Betty Astley (1902–1974)
Alma mater Trinity 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 early 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 the fifth son of Joseph Paton Maclay, 1st Baron Maclay, and the younger brother of Joseph Maclay, 2nd Baron Maclay.[2] 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.[3]

Political career

In 1940 Maclay was elected in a wartime by-election as Member of Parliament (MP) for Montrose Burghs.[4] During the Second World War, he led the British Merchant shipping Mission to Washington, D.C. 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.[5] 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,[6] 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.[7] He had been made a Companion of Honour in 1962[8] and was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1973.[9] From 1967 to 1980 he served as Lord-Lieutenant of Renfrewshire.

Personal life

Lord Muirshiel married Betty, daughter of Delaval Graham L'Estrange Astley, in 1930. The marriage was childless. She died in June 1974, aged 71. Lord Muirshiel remained a widower until his death in August 1992, aged 86. The viscountcy died with him.[2] 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]


  • The Hon. John Scott Maclay (1905–1940)
  • The Hon. John Scott Maclay MP (1940–1952)
  • The Rt. Hon. John Scott Maclay MP (1952–1964)
  • The Rt. Hon. John Scott Maclay, Viscount Muirshiel (1964–1992)

See also


  2. 2.0 2.1 John Scott Maclay, 1st Viscount Muirshiel
  3. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The London Gazette: no. 34892. p. 4170. 9 July 1940.
  5. The London Gazette: no. 37238. p. 4296. 24 August 1945.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 38851. p. 1044. 28 February 1950.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 43383. p. 6097. 17 July 1964.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 42736. p. 5807. 20 July 1962.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 45963. p. 5331. 27 April 1973.
  • Torrance, David, The Scottish Secretaries (Birlinn 2006)

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Stanley Holmes
Chairman of the National Liberal Party
Succeeded by
James Duncan
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Kerr
Member of Parliament for Montrose Burghs
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Thomas Scollan
Member of Parliament for West Renfrewshire
Succeeded by
Norman Buchan
Political offices
Preceded by
Alfred Barnes
Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
Alan Lennox-Boyd
Preceded by
The Lord Ogmore
Minister of Civil Aviation
Preceded by
Hon. John Hare
Minister of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
The Earl of Perth
Preceded by
Hon. James Stuart
Secretary of State for Scotland
Succeeded by
Michael Noble
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Walter Shaw-Stewart, Bt
Lord-Lieutenant of Renfrewshire
Succeeded by
David Makgill-Crichton-Maitland
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Muirshiel