IT is an unusual sight for Wiggham watchers. Silver-tongued, silver-haired urbane Barrie, who recently turned 56, is obviously rattled. More than that, the outgoing Civil Service Secretary and former ''Mr 1997'' is hurt. After more than 30 years in Hongkong, the multi-lingual former District Board officer is having not just his life's work but his future, and most importantly, his character and his moral stature questioned. Within a week, his security and reputation have been shot out of the water as critics have attacked him mercilessly for his new post as Hongkong commissioner for economic and trade affairs in the US - at HK$130,000 plus a month - and his proposed Washington DC home, a HK$20 million Bethesda bungalow with pool, tennis court and guesthouse. Essentially, they have said, that when it was announced he would not succeed Sir David Ford as Chief Secretary that the old colonial boys' network got together and found one of their favourite sons another nice job. The decision, the critics said, was made in secret and without proper consultation with the Legislative Council and other concerned parties; in some people's view, other candidates would have been interested in Mr Wiggham's proposed appointment. At every level of the civil service machine, the accusations have been specifically denied, but the cost and prestige of creating the new super-post in Washington has forced the Government to delay a decision on the appointment until the Finance Committee has been privately briefed. Two days after the decision to defer the funding decision, Mr Wiggham was still unsettled about the controversy his new job has caused. ''Yes, I am hurt. My future, as it now stands, ends in June,'' he said, sitting in an office that is in the process of being emptied. ''Of course, I anticipated some criticism. But it has become so personal. I now have to discuss my future in the conditional tense. My life could end in June.'' ''It is very difficult to somehow defend myself because I will be seen as somehow fighting for my own place which is quite improper for me.'' Were other jobs then suggested to him? ''Well, no. No. No. This was a suggestion, we [he and his wife Mavis] thought about it and we decided it did have its attractions. ''I could see the challenges and the changes at my stage in life. I'm not sure what the longer term held for me anyway. So eventually I said yes. But there was no question of there being special arrangements. ''I have been pretty conscientious about this. I saw this as making sense. I know as the SCS [Secretary Civil Service] that we have been looking for people to go to Washington. We have really been looking for people. I could see it made sense. ''I reckoned it was a job I could do without wishing to blow my own trumpet. And I could see that it would also be part of the localisation process. There is a certain irony that I, as SCS, am one of the victims. But I accepted that. I knew it would happen sooner or later, at my level, localisation would bite. ''No question of perks being especially presented for me. And that is what I resented. As if I would do that.'' The problem is that a lot of people think that high civil servants do ''do that'' - look after themselves at a large cost to the public purse. In Hongkong, with the constant political frisson created by one of the world's best-remunerated civil services and where the rewards for local and expatriate employees are unequal, that irritation is festering into a bleeding wound as 1997 approaches. An hour earlier, a more-contained Mr Wiggham held an unusually animated press conference where he faced questions about his proposed residence, salary, perks and the suitability of appointing an expatriate to such a high-ranking position rather than a Hongkong Chinese. He said: ''I don't want to be seen as somehow bypassing Legco when I talk about this. As you know part of the proposals have been put to Legco. I do not want to be accused of being discourteous in any way to the Finance Committee [of Legco]. ''There are two issues. One is the creation of the post. And the other is the person who fills it. The creation of the post is a matter for the Finance Committee. This is dealt with by the standard procedure of an establishment sub-committee which we are on course to do. ''The filling of the post at the end of the day - that will be up to the PSC [Public Services Commission]. And because my name is linked with the filling of the post I don't wish to comment on the second part.'' Mr Wiggham said that he was not promised the post as a golden handshake from an eclipsed colonial regime. ''No, I was not promised this,'' he said. ''It came up last year and it was announced, and to tell you the truth, I was not sure I wanted it. I can assure you I did not ask for it. I did not volunteer for it. I was not seeking it. ''It has been recognised for sometime that our presence in the United States needs beefing up. Our representation, for example, is low, when compared to other missions like London. Competitors are not shy about their representation at a high level and working hard for their interests. I see no reason why Hongkong should be shy about that. ''We have accepted the case for getting the right person in for some time. A number of civil servants, including those in other offices, were approached to no avail. I might tell you we also went outside the Government. As it worked out, I happened to beavailable. I happened to be at a particular level and . . . if a post was created at that particular level, I might be the right person. ''But there has been this feeling that this package has been tailor-made for me. Again, this is rubbish. ''For everyone who goes overseas at this level there is more or less the same package: baggage allowance, disturbance allowance, passage allowance allowance of entertainment. Accommodation is either provided by rental or by leasehold. We do have officialresidences: one in London and one in Brussels. ''People talk about buying a nice new house for me. Whoever went there, me or anyone else, it would not make any difference whether it was bought or rented provided the house was seen to be appropriate to the status of the individual and suitable for representation against our competitors. Washington is the sort of place where, like it not, status and position do count.'' The Government, much to the concern of certain elected members of Legco, has two other head-of-mission offices with private residences for its trade representatives in London and Brussels. The London residence is in 19 Cowley Street, Westminster, and was bought on the advice of Mr Denis Bray when he headed the mission. It is a large townhouse with a series of reception rooms that provide stylish accommodation for the dinners and receptionsthat are an essential part of lobbying overseas. The residence became such a nerve centre for textile lobbying in London that a division bell was installed in the dining room. ''If British MPs were being entertained and the division bell would ring in the House of Commons they would get up from dinner, walk to the House, vote, and then return for dessert and port,'' a Hongkong Government spokesman in London said. The residence of the head of mission in Brussels, now Mr Patrick Williamson, is a 12-bedroom former ambassador's home in the city's exclusive diplomatic belt. It is protected with a high wall, imposing gates and boasts a lift to the upper floors. Only Geneva's head of mission is less generously funded. Mr Joseph Wong, who represents Hongkong at GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), has opted to spend his housing allowance on a rented property. For HK$60,000 a month, he and his family live in a four-bedroom house, with an unheated swimming pool and a dining room which is restricted to 10 guests per sitting. By comparison, the still-to-be-finalised purchase of the rambling brick bungalow in residential Bethesda, is ''modest'' in the rankings of the diplomatic service. It is not an abuse of rank or privilege in Mr Wiggham's view. ''I looked at about 15 houses, and I had a brief. Mavis and I could have lived downtown but we were told that the property had to suit a family. We made a choice on that basis. We also had to think of guests. This place has four bedrooms and a guesthouse. Somewhere we can put the FS [Financial Secretary] when he comes to stay. There is nothing sinister about it all.'' Of all the policy secretaries Mr Wiggham seems the most-qualified to represent Hongkong in awkward political times. The Methodist-bred, tertiary-educated Englishman has spent 31 years in Hongkong and risen from a district officer to a Mandarin-, Cantonese-, French-and German-speaking bureaucrat par excellence. ''I am ready for a new challenge,'' he said. ''I think I can do the job. I see myself as being back in Hongkong, again - or still - in 1997.''