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My friend and colleague James Hore-Ruthven, who has died aged 75, was a pioneer in the field of conflict resolution. He found his calling as a teenager, during visits to a centre for reconciliation in the Alpine village of Caux, Switzerland, which had become internationally known for its reconciliation role after the Second World War. Thousands from France, Germany, Britain, Scandinavia and Japan gathered there in a spirit of rapprochement.

James later became a member of the board of trustees of the Caux Foundation, serving from 1978 to 2006. He was a leading figure in its international peacemaking work, ranging from the Horn of Africa to the far east and including Northern Ireland.

In Britain, this work became known as Agenda for Reconciliation, which James initiated in the early 1990s. "Looking around the world today, how foolish it is to think we can build a peaceful future without healing the wounds of history," he commented.

James was born in London and came from the family which owns the picturesque north Devon village of Clovelly. He might have chosen an army career. His uncle, the 1st Earl of Gowrie, won the VC at the battle of Omdurman in Sudan in 1898 and became governor general of Australia. James's father, Malise Hore-Ruthven, was a colonel in the Black Watch and served in the Boer war and the first world war.

Instead, James enlisted in the post-war campaign of "moral and spiritual rearmament" founded by Frank Buchman and now known as Initiatives of Change. Out of Buchman's prewar Christian work with students at Oxford had arisen the Oxford Group, which remains a registered charity in Britain. For 34 years, from 1966, James was on its board of trustees, twice serving as chair (1993-96, 2006-07). His wise counsel was a source of great encouragement to younger members, including myself, who are now in leadership positions in this type of work.

James met Dron Craig, the daughter of a Glasgow steel businessman, in Caux and they were married in 1965. She died in 2002. He is survived by a daughter, Angela, a son, Sandy, and two grandchildren.

Michael Smith

This obituary first appeared in The Guardian, 8 August 2011


The following obituary of James Hore-Ruthven appeared in the North Devon Journal on 9 June 2011, under the headline ‘Former lifeboat treasurer dies’:

James Hore-Ruthven of Clovelly who was a leading figure in an international campaign of trust-building across the world’s divides, has died.

He passed away on May 24 at the age of 75.

His aunt, Betty Asquith, inherited the Clovelly estate in the north Devon village in 1936 and his cousin, the Hon John Rous, who now owns Clovelly, says that when James came to live there in 2000 “he relished getting involved in local activities.”

He was treasurer of the Clovelly lifeboat for about five years and was on the parochial church council of All Saints Church.

Born in London on August 17 1935, James found his calling in life as a teenager during his visits to a centre for reconciliation in the Alpine village of Caux, Switzerland.

He later became a member of the board of the Caux Foundation, serving on it for 28 years till 2006.

Run by Moral Re-Armament (MRA), now called Initiatives of Change, the Caux centre became internationally known for its reconciling role after the Second World War.

James enlisted in the campaign of moral and spiritual rearmament, founded in 1938 by the American Lutheran minister Frank Buchman.

It aimed to encourage the spiritual values that would restore peace and promote human security and had grown out of Buchman’s earlier Christian work with students at Oxford.

The Oxford Group remains registered as a charity in the UK, campaigning as Initiatives of Change.

For 34 years James was on The Oxford Group’s board of trustees, serving as Chair from 1993 to 1996 and again from 2006 to 2007.

He became a leading light in MRA’s international peace-making work, ranging from the Horn of Africa to the Far East, and known in Britain as Agenda for Reconciliation. This took him to Northern Ireland, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan and Africa.

His cousin Grey, the 2nd Earl of Gowrie, a former cabinet minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, said: “Working in government during the 1970s and 1980s in the arenas of industrial relations and Northern Ireland, I and others found James’s experience and insights invaluable. He was a pioneer in the now vibrant field of conflict resolution, a humane and gifted man.” 

James’ five trips to China with colleagues, including the former UN diplomat Archie Mackenzie, sought to build bridges of understanding.

As a mature student he studied imperial history at London University in order to better understand Chinese attitudes towards the West. He drew on his family history and his study of China to run a U3A [University of the Third Age] Torridge study group on the legacy of empire while his fluency in French enabled him to help the U3A French group.

He met Dron Craig, the daughter of a Glasgow steel businessman, in Caux and they were married in 1965.

They moved from London to live in Clovelly in 2000. But their time together was cut short when Dron died in 2002.

His cousin, Lady Henrietta Rous, helped him to organise his last big party in Clovelly, a Highland Reeling for 100 people, last January.

He is survived by daughter Angela, son Sandy and two grandchildren.


IofC in Brief

Who we are: Initiatives of Change (IofC) is a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own.


Purpose: We work to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with themselves, in the areas of trustbuilding, ethical leadership and sustainable living.

Omnia Marzouk, President, IofC International
'Nothing lasting can be built without a desire by people to live differently and exemplify the changes they want to see in society.'