Sir Andrew Stark

Born: 30 December, 1916, in Bathgate.

Died: 3 April, 2006, in Essex, aged 89.

ANDREW Stark had a distinguished and varied diplomatic career in some senior appointments. Because he had a careful and meticulous mind, he was given some unenviable tasks by the Foreign Office or the United Nations that, however incisive his conclusions, invariably cut into entrenched opinions. Nevertheless, his lucid and informed conclusions were often proved right within a few years.

Stark had a particularly successful five years as ambassador in Denmark where he was a popular and far-sighted representative. His agile, commercial brain forged many close links between United Kingdom and Danish businesses, which proved of immense benefit to both countries. This respect by the Danes for Stark was reflected in his joining the boards of several of their major companies when he retired.

Andrew Alexander Steel Stark was educated at Bathgate Academy and then read English at Edinburgh University. He served throughout the war in the Green Howards and then joined the Foreign Service in 1948. Stark served with distinction in various capacities in Europe and built up a healthy reputation for his quick grasp of complex detail in such capitals as Vienna and Rome.

In 1968 Stark was sent to New York to join the British Mission to the United Nations. It was a testing period with the Cold War at its height and the UN all too often being used as a platform for rhetoric by opposing countries. Stark sat on the, potentially powerful, Seven Nation Committee that was empowered to reform the internal working of the UN. It was a thankless task and something of a diplomatic poisoned chalice. The internal strife of the seven members seldom allowed for constructive agreement and the workings of the secretariat remained (and still are) labyrinthine and largely unchanged.

For all Stark's skills he was unable to balance the challenges of the impoverished Third Word countries with the demands of the rich western countries. In 1968, he also had to contend with the rising political and social demands of the Eastern Bloc.

Undeterred, Stark then turned gamekeeper and worked for two years in the secretariat and was appointed an under-secretary general. This handsome and most incisive of men found the position a touch trying and was happy to return to London in 1971 and was offered the embassy in Copenhagen.

Stark made a strong impression with the Danes. He loved their outdoor life - he was an excellent shot and hunted in the countryside north of the capital with many leading members of the government - and the two countries were then both applying for membership of the EEC: so many mutual diplomatic discussions were held. Stark undoubtedly soothed a few commercial worries and relayed back to London reactions of the Danes to membership.

But the Wilson government of 1976 was on a severe cost cutting exercise and decided to reduce the size of embassies - especially those within the community as, it was thought, some of their responsibilities would be taken over by Brussels.

So Stark, instead of remaining in the Danish post until his retirement, came back to London to be presented with his second diplomatic unanswerable. The Foreign Office set up the Review of Overseas Representation to consider how the service could meet the demands of a changing economic and social society. Once again, Stark had to balance the traditionalists within the service who balked at any change with the demands of a younger generation who were alive to the spirit of change that was sweeping through international diplomacy. The Foreign Secretaries of the time, Anthony Crossland and Dr David Owen, both reflected Cabinet demands for dramatic new thinking.

In fact, Stark was caught in the crossfire and although the report was a fine reflection of his intellect and vision it cut little ice within Whitehall.

When Stark retired, in 1978, he lived in Essex and joined the boards of the likes of Carlsberg Beer and Scandinavian Bank. He was also chairman of the Anglo-Danish Society where all the members appreciated his love of both countries. Stark was also a most able pro-chancellor of Essex University.

Stark never lost either his Scottish accent or his love for the country. He returned often to visit friends and retained a delightful pawky humour and canny manner that marked him out as a proud Scot.

Stark married Rosemary Parker in 1944. She and two sons survive him, one son having predeceased him.