Stella Rimington was educated at Nottingham Girls' High School, and Edinburgh and Liverpool Universities. In 1959 she started work in the Worcestershire County Archives, moving in 1962 to the India Office Library in London, as Assistant Keeper responsible for manuscripts relating to the period of the British rule in India. In 1965 she joined the Security Service (MI5) part-time, while she was in India accompanying her husband on a posting to the British High Commission in New Delhi. On her return to the UK she joined MI5 as a full-time employee. During her career in MI5, which lasted from 1969 to 1996, Stella Rimington worked in all the main fields of the Service's responsibilities - counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism - and became successively Director of all three branches. She was appointed Director-General of MI5 in 1992. She was the first woman to hold the post and the first Director-General whose name was publicly announced on appointment. During her time as DG she pursued a policy of greater openness for MI5, giving the 1994 Dimbleby Lecture on BBC TV and several other public lectures and publishing a booklet about the Service. She was made a Dame Commander of the Bath (DCB) in 1995 and has been awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws by the Universities of Nottingham and Exeter. Following her retirement from MI5 in 1996, she has become a Non-Executive Director of Marks & Spencer, BG Group plc and Whitehead Mann GKR. She is Chairman of the Institute of Cancer Research and a member of the Board of the Royal Marsden NHS Trust. She has two daughters and a granddaughter.
Publisher and industry reviews
The memoirs of the former head of MI5 who worked from 1965 to 1996 in all the main fields of the Service's activities - counter subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism and successively became Director of all three branches.
UK Kirkus review
This is the book Whitehall did not want anyone to read, and as a former Director-General of the Security Service, with twenty-seven years' experience of the organisation, one can understand the government's reluctance to encourage insiders to make indiscreet disclosures. However, Dame Stella is the most unlikely person to compromise national security, and she has revealed that the only passage deleted from her manuscript concerned MI5's role in the failed attack by the Provisional IRA on Gibraltar in 1988. On that occasion three well-known Irish republican terrorists, under constant surveillance by MI5 watchers, were shot dead by SAS soldiers before they could detonate their bomb, but Rimington's account does not even acknowledge that MI5 played any role at all in the incident. Packed with mildly amusing anecdotes, usually barbed to take long-delayed swipe at some unfortunate contemporary. This is not a 'hit-and-tell', but more a catalogue of complaints about how her necessarily covert career affected her family, and how her impressive rise in a male-dominated environment supposedly was handicapped by glass ceilings. Her colleagues, unsurprisingly, are dismayed at her hypocrisy, having advised so many retirees to hold their tongues under threat of losing their pensions, and amazed at the number of grievances she has nurtured silently for so long. The impression is of a rather na ve, self-absorbed, competent, chippy bureaucrat who failed to find the confidence that others took for granted, and who appears to have been unable to exercise the power commonly associated with her status and her quite unique responsibility. Has Dame Stella acted 'To Defend the Realm', as MI5's motto requires? Certainly she has presented a remarkable account of her many frustrations, but she will have won no friends in so doing. Review by: Nigel West (Kirkus UK)