Larking about with the lads, future MI5 chief who even then was known as 007: How hockey-playing Glaswegian grew up to be the new director general of Britain’s domestic security agency

  • Future MI5 chief who will become youngest ever in post seen with friends
  • Ken McCallum seen in his early 20s in the 1990s enjoying a drink with friends 
  • Career spy has worked for MI5 for 25 years and oversaw Skripal investigation 
  • The Mail on Sunday finds he grew up in a well-to-do area in Glasgow’s West End

Smiling broadly, future MI5 chief Ken McCallum enjoys a drink with the hockey club teammates, who prophetically gave him the nickname ‘007’.

This exclusive picture of Mr McCallum, who will soon become the youngest ever director general of the domestic security agency, was taken in the 1990s when he was in his early 20s and captain of Hillhead Men’s Hockey Club in Glasgow.

The career spy, who has worked for MI5 for 25 years and oversaw its investigation into Russia’s attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in 2018, will take up his new post later this month.

This exclusive picture of Mr McCallum, who will soon become the youngest ever director general of the domestic security agency, was taken in the 1990s when he was in his early 20s and captain of Hillhead Men’s Hockey Club in Glasgow

When his promotion was announced last week, the agency released only limited information about his life for security reasons. Even his age is a secret, with MI5 saying only that he is in his ‘mid-40s’.

But The Mail on Sunday has discovered he grew up in Broomhill, a well-to-do area in Glasgow’s West End, where he attended a state school. He then went to Glasgow University to study maths and computer science. It was as an undergraduate that he played hockey.

When his promotion was announced last week, the agency released only limited information about his life for security reasons. Even his age is a secret, with MI5 saying only that he is in his ‘mid-40s’

Club members said he led the team in tournaments across Scotland and England and, as our clubhouse photograph shows, also enjoyed socialising. 

Teammates said he was, even then, regarded as a ‘natural leader’, leaving few in doubt that he was destined for ‘big things’ in the future.

Alan Meikle, who is now club coach, said they ‘used to joke about him being 007’. He declined to elaborate, but it is likely Mr McCallum – known to all at the club as ‘Kenny’ – was applying for government jobs in London at the time the photograph was taken.

Another teammate, Geoff Duke, who now serves as club secretary, said: ‘He was a very pleasant chap and had many friends. You could see he was destined to do well somewhere. We just didn’t envisage it would be quite as spectacular, or in that particular field.’

In a statement, the club said: ‘Hillhead Men’s Hockey Club were delighted to read of the promotion of one of their former members, Kenny McCallum, to the head of MI5. A popular member and 1st XI captain in the 1990s, it does not come as a surprise for those that played under Kenny to see him rise to the top of his profession at such a young age.’

According to insiders, Mr McCallum was recruited by MI5 talent-spotters when, having graduated with first-class honours, he applied to join the civil service’s fast- track scheme.

He began as an intelligence officer in Northern Ireland in 1995, where he remained for ten years, and his rise through the ranks continued on his return to London, where he led security operations for the 2012 Olympics.

In April 2017, a month after the Westminster Bridge terror attack in which five people were killed, he was appointed MI5’s deputy director general and oversaw the investigation into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, now 68, and his daughter Yulia, 35, in Salisbury, which led to the identification of the suspected Russian agents behind the attack.

Mr McCallum’s expertise in cyber security is understood to be a key factor in his new appointment. 

A security source said the new chief is expected to bring in private technology firms to help MI5 tackle Islamist terrorism and hostile states such as Russia and China.

‘Ken has broad experience, but he is very future-focused,’ said the source. 

‘He has got a passion for technology and how technology can help tackle an evolving threat.’

He was appointed MI5’s deputy director general and oversaw the investigation into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, now 68, and his daughter Yulia, 35, in Salisbury, which led to the identification of the suspected Russian agents behind the attack. Emergency services are pictured at the scene

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