Building on stronger ties

September 18 - 24, 2019

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Gulf Weekly Building on stronger ties

Roderick “Roddy” Drummond, Her Majesty’s new Ambassador to Bahrain, hopes that his diverse perspective and his experience with Arab culture will add to his new role.

Roddy started his FCO career in the Philippines and Indonesia in 1985. When offered the chance to learn a new language, after some deliberation, he picked Arabic.

An anthropologist at heart, his reason was simple. He said: “Studying Arabic gave me the chance to go to up to 20 countries, each quite different. Whereas if I specialised in another language, that’s a tie, there’s usually only one country that one can go to with that language. Arabic allowed me to experience the diversity across the Middle East, the differences between different countries and their cultures.”

According to Roddy, it’s been at least three ambassadors since one who spoke Arabic has been appointed. The ambassador, who spent a year learning Arabic full-time in 1987 before being posted to Algiers, Algeria, and then refreshed himself on the language before his Riyadh role in 2009. However, even though the Ambassador is married to Yasmin, a British national of Arab-origin, whom he met when she was teaching in Jordan, there is almost no Arabic spoken at home.

Roddy is a father of three - Ross, who teaches at university, Catherine, a policewoman in the Ministry of Defence and Ellie, who is in fashion and retail. He is also a grandfather of three, soon to be four.

“Each of my children has lived in the Middle East for bits of their lives, so they know quite a bit about the culture,” said Roddy. “Ellie has even visited Bahrain with us. We are looking forward to having them as well as other family visit us once we are settled in.”

His wife Yasmin, who has taught English to “everyone from royalty to refugees”, has in the last decade taken up abstract art, a passion over which she enjoys engaging with the local culture. Her art much like her diplomatic role, involves a lot of overlapping of colours and blending of abstract and figurative elements.

In Fiji, Roddy’s work and her art intersected. “In Fiji, our last overseas post, she did collaborations with Fijian artists, and their work was on display at the High Commission,” added Roddy. “She helped persuade the government that there was a need to do more to promote contemporary arts and provide a space or gallery for indigenous and contemporary art which has very deep cultural traditions.

“This is a significant part of what the UK does these days. We don’t just promote research and design and commercial activity. And since she is an artist herself, the conviction when the cultural push comes from her, is much more significant and energetic.”

The couple hope to continue this in Bahrain as well, with Roddy saying: “The government here is much more active in its support of the local artist scene and I am looking forward to delving further into Bahraini art.”

While Yasmin is more of an introvert with indoor passions, Roddy, on the other hand, is more of an outdoor person, having played rugby previously and planning on getting back to diving soon.

“I found my wetsuit the other day but ironically, the rest of my equipment is still on the high seas,” he said. “I dived quite a bit in Fiji and am looking forward to visiting the underwater park here. I think I am getting too old for rugby.”

Previous to this role, the career diplomat was the Director of Security and Estates, a role in which he oversaw the security of British expats worldwide. Prior to that, he served as High Commissioner and Head of the South Pacific Network in Suva, Fiji and has worked in Qatar, Syria, Belgium and South Africa, experiencing the different yet similar communities British expats have formed around the world.

Ever the Scotsman, he particularly enjoys watching Scottish expats teaching locals his traditional music and dance. And yes, that means that sooner or later, the community here will see Roddy don the kilt, when the moment is right.

In the meantime, he has lots of hands to shake and cakes to cut, as he preserves a 200-year old relationship at the junction of two countries that are undergoing significant economic change. He said: “The UK is looking forward to investing more in the education side of things, perhaps even moving towards research collaboration in different fields. There’s also a lot of work being done here on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and we look forward to bringing British firms with relevant expertise here to further develop that.”

Roddy has his work cut out for him as he enjoys the diverse landscape of the island while navigating through an interesting socio-political and economic moment.

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