Marista Leishman, biographer and daughter of Lord Reith

(From The Herald (Scotland) of 22.11.2019)

“Born: April 10, 1932; Died: November 3, 2019

MARISTA Leishman, who has died aged 87, was the daughter of Lord Reith, the first director-general of the BBC. She wrote an honest biography of her father in 2006 (Reith of the BBC: My Father) about his erratic behaviour and ungracious treatment of his wife which suggested a very different persona from the one he carefully nurtured at the BBC. As director general, Reith never promoted divorced employees and insisted that anyone reading the religious programme The Epilogue should be of unblemished character.

Her connections with Scotland were strong. She married Murray Leishman, a minister of the kirk who later became an analytical psychotherapist in Edinburgh. They had met as students at St Andrews but as her children grew up Leishman worked in the National Trust for Scotland’s imposing offices on the south side of Charlotte Square where from 1979-86 she was the first head of education…

Marista Muriel Reith was born in Beaconsfield and was the daughter of John Reith and his wife Muriel. She had an older brother, Christopher, who became a farmer in Perthshire and after their father’s death in 1971 decided to disclaim the hereditary title. Christopher died in 2016…

Family life for Leishman was seldom easy and often fractious. As (Lord Reith) accompanied his daughter in the Rolls Royce to her wedding at St John’s Kirk, Perth, he was furious that she was marrying. He considered it a betrayal. The two had not spoken for two years.

Even when married he treated her with disdain and only referred to her husband as Mr Leishman. However, ‘Mr. Leishman’ decided he should be generous, “After all, I got the girl.”

Relationships did improve slightly over the years and her father bought for the Leishman family a holiday cottage in Duror of Appin, in Argyll. But reconciliation was not easy. In one of her final comments in her book Leishman wrote “If he did have a sense of humour, it was very hard to locate.”…”

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