Moray McLaren

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Moray David Shaw McLaren (24 March 1901—12 July 1971) was an author, playwright, journalist and broadcaster who served in a succession of senior roles for the BBC's Scottish Region between 1931 and 1935, most notably as the BBC's first Scottish Programme Director. He went on to become a familiar voice over many decades.


He was a Highlander??

He was born at 14 Walker Street, Edinburgh, and educated at the city's Merchiston Castle School. However, in a BBC radio broadcast he referred to spending "a large part of my own youth in that lovely great garden of southern England (that, by the way is not why I talk with this strong English accent; that's only a hereditary misfortune) and England brought out the worst in me".[1]

He graduated from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and, after further study in Paris, he became assistant editor of the London Mercury.

He joined the BBC in 1928 to become first assistant editor of the Listener.

In 1931 McLaren was moved to Scottish Broadcasting House in Edinburgh to replace Kennedy Stewart as Information Secretary after the latter was dismissed following a disagreement with his boss David Cleghorn Thomson. In this role he was 'second in command'. By October 1932 his official title was 'Chief Assistant' and his responsibilities were listed as talks, press relations, Radio Times matters and programme correspondence, and chairman of the Feature Programme Committee.[2]

McLaren took over as acting Scottish Regional Director from 1 May 1933, following the departure of David Cleghorn Thomson. He carried out the role for five months until Melville Dinwiddie was properly installed as Thomson's successor in October of that year. At that point McLaren became the Scottish Region's programme director, a new appointment which was part of the Scottish Region's division into separate 'creative' and 'administrative' branches.[3] Succeeding him as Information Officer for Scotland was George Burnett, who had been senior assistant for Scottish schools broadcasting since early 1928.[4]

In May 1935 he left Edinburgh to take up an appointment as assistant to Mr Pocock, head of the newly-formed General Talks Department at Broadcasting House, London.[5] He was succeeded as director of programmes in Scotland by Andrew Stewart. In August 1936 he transferred from the Talks department at head office to become assistant director of the newly-named Features and Drama department, the idea being that he could maintain liaison with certain Talks features.[6]

McLaren left the BBC in 1940 following the start of the Second World War when he was attached to the Foreign Office as head of the Polish region political intelligence department.

In 1945 he returned to Edinburgh to live and write.

He married Lennox Milne, the Scottish actress, in 1946. [7]

He died on 12 July 1971 in his Edinburgh home at the age of 70.


Reith felt that McLaren's religion ruled him out as a potential candidate for Scottish Regional Direction. He wrote: 'Apart from anything else, he is an R.C., and that I think rules him out for Scotland.'[8]


Fellow writer and broadcaster Maurice Lindsay wrote that McLaren "was a master of the craft of radio broadcasting". "His urbanity, the impeccable timing and his exquisite sense of pause were nowhere displayed to more effective advantage than in a talk in Scottish Life and Letters wherein he remembered his friend Sir Max Beerbohm.[9]

Literary works

His best-known works were Return to Scotland, A Wayfarer in Poland, and Lord Lovat of the '45. He also wrote several plays and was a regular contributor of book reviews to the Glasgow Herald.

Nationalist opinions

Writing in The Spectator in May 1933:

History and geography, between them, have seldom contrived anything more amusingly inappropriate than when they decided that the English and Scottish nations should share the same island [...] there is an essential and profound difference between the true Scot and the true Englishman, which is none the less real because an indeterminate creature described as British has been produced as a result of the compromise.[10]


  1. Moray McLaren, 'If Caught Young', BBC Scottish Home Service, 3 October 1950; script at Scottish Theatre Archive, STA Bridie 466.
  2. 'Allocation of duties of Scottish Regional Staff', 13 October 1932, BBC WAC R34/734.
  3. 'Mr Dinwiddie to start duties on Monday', Glasgow Herald, 29 August 1933, 11.
  4. 'BBC appointment', Glasgow Herald, 16 October 1933.
  5. 'New post for Scottish BBC official', Glasgow Herald, 25 April 1935, 11.
  6. Briggs, Vol. II, 157; Ariel, December 1936, 24.
  7. 'Death of Moray McLaren', Glasgow Herald, 13 July 1971.
  8. Pencilled note, D. Cleghorn Thomson to Reith, 26 September 1930, BBC WAC L1/421/1.
  9. 'Moray McLaren: an appreciation', Glasgow Herald, 15 July 1971.
  10. Moray McLaren, 'The Scotsman's View of England', The Spectator, 26 May 1933, 752.
Media offices
First Scottish Programme Director
Succeeded by
Andrew Stewart