Imagine your partner takes up a diplomatic post in India. While you're there, playing the role of the dutiful spouse at a cocktail party, a man taps you on the shoulder and asks if you'd like a job helping him in his office.
It turns out that the shoulder-tapper is not just any man, but a spy. You accept, and within a short time are embarking on a career full of intrigue and mystery. Sounds unlikely, something from a fanciful movie plot? Well this is not some work of fiction, but rather how Stella Rimington found herself working for British Domestic Intelligence Agency, MI5.
This change of career saw her progress through the ranks of MI5 before ascending to the highest position of MI5, becoming the first female Director General of the Agency in 1992. Some say that Ian Fleming based his character M, played by Judy Dench in the James Bond films, on Rimington. She'd say that her experiences have made her a writer. Recently in Australia she talked at a Dymocks Literary Lunch about the line between fact and fiction.
Stella Rimington says she's had 4 careers. First as a Librarian/archivist, then a diplomats wife, MI5, and now as an author. In this field she has written four books, her first a memoir titled Open Secret: the Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5. She has published three spy-thriller novels Secret Asset, Illegal Action and Dead Line. She's currently working on a fourth novel.
Dame Stella Rimington is the retired director general of the British Security Service (MI5). Appointed director general in 1992, she was the first woman to hold the post and the first director general to be publicly named on appointment.
After gaining a postgraduate diploma in the study of records and the administration of archives at Liverpool University, Rimington worked in the Worcester County Record Office and the India Office Library in London. In the mid 1960s, while accompanying her husband on a posting to the British High Commission in New Delhi, she worked part time for the Security Service, which at that time had an office in New Delhi.
On her return to the UK in 1969, Rimington joined MI5 as a full time employee. She worked in all the main fields of the service's responsibilities, counter subversion, counter espionage and counter terrorism, becoming successively director of all three branches. During her tenure as director general, Rimington pursued a policy of greater openness for MI5, giving the 1994 Dimbleby Lecture on BBC TV. She retired from MI5 in April 1996.
Rimington was a non-executive director of Marks & Spencer from 1997 to 2004 and of BG Group from 1997 until May 2005. Amongst other recent appointments she has been chairman of the Institute of Cancer Research, a trustee of the Royal Marsden Hospital, a trustee of the Royal Air Force Museum and a school governor. She is also a trustee of the charity Refuge.
Rimington was made a Dame Commander of the Bath in the 1996 New Year Honours List. She is the author of an autobiography, Open Secret, and the novels At Risk, Secret Asset and Dead Line.
Stella Rimington, former Director-General of MI5, discusses the difficulty juggling her life as a mother and her job as a spy. To conceal her job, Rimington concocted cover stories ranging from boot-buyer to cosmetics representative.