Griffith was the son of Kenneth Maclaurin, headmaster of Westmere School, and was educated at Auckland Grammar School and Auckland University College. He then won a scholarship to Cambridge University. From his early days, Griff Maclaurin pursued the family interest in scholarship; his father installed in him a love of history and his mother, Gwladys, taught him French.
In 1932 he arrived at St. John's College, Cambridge, which his uncle Richard had attended. His tutor, James Wordie, a veteran of Shackleton's Endurance expedition, instilled in him a desire to travel and a visit to Germany in 1933, soon after the Nazis took power, profoundly changed Griff's world view: the experience made him anti-fascist . When he graduated in 1934 he taught mathematics in Glasgow and St. Peter's in York, but was sacked from there after a drinking session. By this time, he had joined the Communist Party and considered politics more important than either teaching or studying mathematics.
Returning to Cambridge, he set up a successful radical bookshop, married without telling his parents, and began to learn Spanish with the intention of visiting Spain. However, when the civil war broke out there in 1936, he joined the International Brigade. Griff left the bookshop in the care of his wife, and was off to Spain within the week with the first organised group of 11 volunteers from Britain. He arrived in Madrid on 8th November 1936, and was killed in savage fighting the next day. Unfortunately, his parents did not know he had gone to Spain until they received a telegram with the news of their son's death. Altogether, five New Zealanders were killed in Spain during the civil war.
Source: New Zealand Herald