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Michael Lindsay, later Lord Lindsay of Birker


Let’s hear it for Michael Lindsay. He was a cousin of my Scottish father-in-law. His father, Sandy Lindsay, was Master of Balliol College, Oxford in the 1930s.

Lindsay senior famously stood for Parliament in 1938, campaigning exclusively on an anti-Munich ticket. The Oxford by-election was the first test of public opinion after that infamous agreement. All the other candidates stood down to ensure a straight two-way fight between Lindsay and Neville Chamberlain’s man, Quintin Hogg.

Hogg won, but Lindsay managed to put a large dent in his majority. He made it clear what the public thought about doing deals with the likes of Adolf Hitler.

In 1941, Lindsay’s son Michael was a lecturer at Yenching University in Peking. He had been hired to introduce Oxford’s personal tutorial system to China.

A mildly eccentric figure, Michael Lindsay liked nothing better than to roar around the streets of Japanese-occupied Peking on his motorbike, with his wife clinging on at the back. He also enjoyed making radio sets. He supplied them secretly to the Chinese guerrillas fighting the Japanese.

All that changed after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Lindsay and his wife were now enemy aliens, forced to escape in a hurry. Shoving guns and food into a rucksack, they fled ten minutes before the Japanese arrived to arrest them.

The Lindsays lived with the guerrillas for two years before walking 500 miles across Japanese-held territory to reach Mao Tse-tung’s headquarters at Yan’an. Mao himself welcomed them at dinner.

The Lindsays’ son was born in a hospital cave at Yan’an. In due course, he inherited the family title and became Lord Lindsay of Birker. I don’t know if he is the only hereditary British peer to have been born in a cave in China, but he is certainly the only one to have been born at Communist Party headquarters!

 

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