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Former British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone Ian McCluney CMG, Given Fitting Funeral in London
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, OOR
Sep 7, 2015, 12:08
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The funeral of the erstwhile British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Ian Mc Cluney, a Companion of Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) was held at a well attended ceremony at the Golders Green Crematorium on 1st September 2015. He was born on 27th February 1937 and died on 17th July 2015 at age 78 years. The late man served in Sierra Leone from 1994 until 1997. He was the British Envoy during key periods in Sierra Leone and he is credited with a lot of the diplomacy that saw the country emerge from a military junta in 1996 and become a multi-party democratic State. He is also credited with advocacy to ensure peace and stability could return to Sierra Leone.


Several persons paid tributes to him including those from countries within which he served as a diplomat as well as his family members.



Elizabeth, his wife at the time he served in Sierra Leone, (who is now divorced from him) read the Holy Bible verses and led the Prayers. Various musical contributions were played from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Harry Belafonte collections. A choir from St. Andrews Cathedral in Jamaica flew in to render beautiful songs.


The whole service was put together by his Companion and Partner Miss Beverley Smith whilst the ceremony itself was conducted by Madam Philippa Roberts.


His children, his brother, nephews and nieces all paid glowing tributes to the loving departed family member they remembered.


The recurring theme throughout the tributes was that he was a family man, a very hardworking man but had been too modest and media-shy for his efforts to be really appreciated.


From his work in Somalia where he served as British Ambassador during the dangerous days of emerging warlords right through to his time in war-torn Sierra Leone, speaker after speaker paid tribute to his courage and devotion to duty.


A former Marine Seal of the United States of America paid passionate tribute recounting how the former British Envoy refused to leave Mogadishu, Somalia in 1991 at the height of dangerous fighting.


“We kept on urging him to leave but he bravely stayed behind for five days until we had evacuated every British to be rescued. That was the time he agreed to fly out in the helicopter,” the now retired American military Officer recounted in the Tribute.


Similar sentiments of how he helped to evacuate British citizens from Sierra Leone in 1997 when the soldiers rebelled against the democratically elected government, were also recounted.


His advocacy attributes on behalf of vulnerable and less fortunate were also highlighted especially his role in advocating for Sierra Leone after the AFRC rebellion.


Some of those who paid tribute to the late man included the Sierra Leone High Commission in the United Kingdom which tribute was delivered by Deputy Head of Mission Mr. Tamba Ngegba. Sierra Leonean retired civil servant Mrs Sylvia E.J. Blyden whom, together with her civic activist husband, Edward Babatunde Blyden had been personal friends of the late man, also paid glowing tribute to him.



From Jamaica where he spent his latter years, a tribute was rendered by Kevin Chambers which also reflected his continued service to humanity. His ashes will be taken to be buried in Jamaica as was requested by Ian Mc Cluney before he passed away.


The funeral event was followed by a reception in Finchley London. Both events were well attended and befitting of a great man who had humbly served humanity without fanfare or self-promotion.



Tributes to him by two Sierra Leoneans are below of this edition. Photos taken at funeral are also published. May his soul rest in peace.





Tributes to Former British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Late H.E Ian McCluney CMG

From Mrs. Sylvia Blyden (Retired Sierra Leone Civil Servant & Wife of Civil Activist Babatunde Blyden)


Today I stand to pay tribute to the work of the late H.E Ian McCluney, whose Homegoing we are here assembled to celebrate. His term of office embraced the period of the N.P.R.C. Military Regime in Sierra Leone and the eventual Handing Over of Governance to the Civilian Regime of President Ahmad Tejan Kabba of the SLPP.

Ian’s role as the Diplomatic Head representing Her Majesty’s Government as High Commissioner in ensuring that this activity was accomplished was no mean feat.

There were three strong factions to be satisfied:

· The RUF Rebels involved in a guerilla war in the Bush.

· The NPRC Military Government that had overthrown the  Civilian Government comprising of hot headed young military officers, all in the rank of Captains and below;

· The Civilian Governance Groups of Political Parties plus NGOs determined to end military rule and re-establish Civilian Rule

Ian together with the American Ambassador then, Mrs Lauralee Peters, undertook quiet diplomacy to ensure the Government in Freetown held discussions and negotiations with the RUF who were then in isolated forest areas in the Provinces. The unreported diplomacy in this area with the unpredictable RUF Rebels was a major factor in the RUF Leader accepting (though temporarily) to lay down their arms and to negotiate with the Sierra Leone Government for Peace, which eventually culminated in The Abidjan Peace Agreement of 30th  November 1996.

Ian worked hard to build up attractive packages/benefits to entice the Military Leaders of the NPRC to willingly hand over power to a Civilian Government. Some of the NPRC members even entered University in the UK due to the silent hard work of Ian McCluney.


He worked with the Civilian Government Groups to develop a meaningful election to be monitored by external observers that was to be acceptable worldwide.


When the election result developed hiccups, e.g. having far more people voting than were registered to vote in the SLPP stronghold of Bo, it was Ian McCluney who was able to patiently convince Dr John Karefa Smart to not proceed with an election petition to the Supreme Court. He diplomatically but very effectively pleaded that though the results were not perfect, they were still credible to ensure that the Khaki Boys did not stay one day longer in office. He was a smooth diplomat and he was able to convince Dr. Karefa-Smart to come around.


I cannot end without reference to his good humour.


Both he and his wife, Elisabeth, found it relaxing to drop in at our home and vice versa. He was able to sample Sierra Leone cooking at our home. With a twinkle in his eyes, he would tease his wife about her being Irish and how when he visited her home during their courtship, the women had to retire to the kitchen and could only come to the sitting room if the dad summoned them to come in and serve them. He used to say: “I was treated like a Lord”, to which she would vehemently object.


Another humour I will like to share is when I invited him to my daughter’s wedding here in London. When he did not turn up, I called his mobile phone to enquire as to his absence. He picked up the call but it was roaming and he was in Jamaica. This was his answer: “Sylvia, you the minority have taken over the UK and are successfully demanding your RIGHTS. I have therefore relocated to Jamaica where I am now the minority and I am happily and successfully demanding my RIGHTS”.


We dearly loved the man Ian McCluney in Sierra Leone. We too would have demanded that his ashes be sent to Sierra Leone or we share the ashes half in Sierra Leone and half in Jamaica but believing in the Afterlife, we know that it would be too challenging for the 2 halves to be rushing around across the Atlantic Ocean to become one whole soul!! So we accept for all his ashes to be laid in Jamaica as he wanted.  So Rest In Peace our dear Ian McCluney. Rest in Perfect Peace.

Tribute to H.E. Ian McCluney by Sierra Leone Deputy High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Tamba Ngegba

Ian McCluney CMG, a veteran of the democratic ideal as he was, did not see his work for the restoration of democracy in Sierra Leone as having ended with his diplomatic service there. Continuing with it on his return to England, he was one of the brain behind the setting up of the Sierra Leone Crisis Desk (SLCD) in London in September 1997, mindful of the degree to which the rebel onslaught on the capital city of Freetown, against the elected government, had gathered momentum and strength.


With the people of Sierra Leone seeking refuge in their thousands abroad, in the surrounding countries of West Africa as much as in the UK and the USA, a crises had perilously been unleashed on Sierra Leoneans to which the SLCD was a most fitting response.   

With him in the Desk’s Committee, under the Patronage of His Excellency, the then High Commissioner of Sierra Leone, Professor C P Foray (of blessed memory), alongside many distinguished partners and friends of concern and goodwill, were: Beverly Smith, British born of Jamaican parentage, Sam Robbin Coker, Louis Ellis, Ade Daramy, Leah Williams, and the Reverend Dr Alex Coker, now Professor Alexander Coker (as Chairman).  


With this able nucleus, the Desk raised awareness of the situation in Sierra Leone at all levels up to that of the Commonwealth Heads of Government, researched and disseminated information on it, provided advice and guidance for it, fundraised for it most especially – for children of SL with a Pikin Appeal.  


Accomplished in this way, he gave so many so much hope in a situation in which so many were helpless.


He has now completed his Mission on earth and the people of Sierra Leone pray that his soul will find Rest Eternal.  

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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