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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record
Happy 90th Birthday, Sir Brian Urquhart
27 February 2009 / 12:22

[Dateline: New York | Author: EOSG]

SG Video Message on UN YouTube channel Sir Brian Urquhart, the veteran United Nations official who helped to guide the Organization from its inception through decades of dramatic challenges, turns ninety tomorrow. 

“What a life you have led!” Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon told Sir Brian in a video message on the occasion. “You landed by parachute in front of General Eisenhower. You survived a jump when your kit didn’t open.” 

The Secretary-General recalled that Sir Brian’s exploits in the Second World War “were even immortalized in a Hollywood movie.” 

The 1977 film A Bridge Too Far featured a character named Major Fuller modeled on the young Brian Urquhart, then an intelligence officer who correctly forecast the failure of “Operation Market Garden,” a plan aimed at precipitating Germany’s defeat in the Second World War. 

At the Security Council in 2003| UN Photo/Evan Schneider (25681)While referring to this stirring episode, the Secretary-General emphasized that it was Sir Brian’s “role in the great drama of the United Nations that means so much to me and to so many others around the world.” 

He recalled that Sir Brian participated in the work of the Preparatory Commission that established the United Nations and attended meetings at its first Headquarters in the Bronx. 

“You didn’t just have a front-row seat on history – you actively shaped it,” Mr. BAN said, citing the former Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs’ expertise in pioneering United Nations peacekeeping, as well as his “enormous influence on every UN Secretary-General.” 

He also lauded Sir Brian for remaining “one of our wisest and staunchest advocates, including through article after article in the New York Review of Books.” 

In South Lebanon in 1984 | Credit: UN Photo (61392)Mr. BAN read tributes from people who worked closely with Sir Brian over the years, including one who recalled him as “the perfect boss, mentor and role model.” Another official said he “never worked as hard, nor enjoyed life as much, as in those years” spent with Sir Brian. 

The video message was shown at a celebration held on 24 February at the International Peace Institute, where Chef de Cabinet Vijay Nambiar presented the honoree with a book containing all of the tributes as well as pictures gathered by the News and Media Division’s Photo Library of Sir Brian’s adventures over the years. 

Following the photos and tributes were a number of blank pages, “not,” the Secretary-General explained, “because you haven’t done enough to fill a book, but because we are counting on you to fill these pages for many years to come.” 

Happy Birthday, Sir Brian. Many happy returns! 

Discussion with Dag Hammarksjold | Credit: UN Photo (191652) Meeting in 1955 | Credit: UN Photo (77556) 

Press conference in 1978 | Credit: UN Photo (62161) Meeting in 1956 | Credit: UN Photo (133043) 

In Cyprus in 1974 | Credit: UN Photo (84691)  The 21st Century Civil Servant: : Then and Now, Theory and Practice, 2 February 2006, Dag Hammarkskjöld Library Lectures and Conversations Series, DPI | Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas (71747)