Menu
Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Stuart and Brenda and their dogs during their sojourn on Orkney.

Stuart Christie remembered

Stuart Christie, a memorable former Hastings resident, died last weekend at the age of 74. Nick Terdre remembers a remarkable man and friend.

Stuart Christie, who has died of lung cancer aged 74, lived in Hastings with his wife Brenda for some 30 years. Born in Glasgow in 1946, Stuart became an anarchist as a teenager – under his granny’s influence, as he described in the very readable My Granny Made Me An Anarchist. He achieved fame, or notoriety, when he was arrested in Spain in 1964 carrying explosives intended for an attempt on the life of the dictator General Franco.

Sentenced to 20 years, he was released in less than four after his mother wrote regularly to Franco asking for clemency.

Back home, however, he was a marked man in the eyes of both the police and special branch, and would recount with his usual humour encounters with the representatives of both bodies for whom he was the ‘usual suspect’ whenever a political happening or action took place which was or might be construed as anarchist.

One encounter which was not so humorous came in 1972 when he was one of eight people put on trial for a series of bombings by the Angry Brigade. Along with three others he was acquitted, the jury rejecting police claims of having found explosives in his car.

With granddaughter Merri in 2014. The FB photo is accompanied by a typical Stuart commentary: ““Gawd almighty, Grumps. So you reckon, would-be Czar Boris now sees himself not as a latter-day Churchillian, but as Plato’s ‘true navigator’, the more dangerous, lonely, benevolent, philosopher king who seizes control of the helm from a quarrelsome crew on behalf of farsighted Brexiteers…”

In the mid 1970s, now married to Brenda, he moved to Orkney, where their daughter Branwen was born, and set up the Cienfuegos Press which was dedicated to publishing anarchist literature. In the 1980s they moved back to England and after a short stay in Cambridge settled in Hastings.

Although he left school early, Stuart was a man of remarkable learning, and never short of an apt quote or aphorism. He had a lasting fascination – obsession is too unkind a word – with everything to do with the Spanish civil war. He happily embraced advances such as the internet, setting up Christie Books as an online publisher, and was a natural for Facebook, which provided him with a ready outlet for his newest discoveries about the Spanish civil war and the latest photographs of his grandchildren Merri and Mo on whom he doted, as well as fond reminiscences of his childhood and Scottish roots.

Stuart was an outgoing person with a fondness for a single malt and easily formed friendships. Though staunch in his political views, he did not let them dictate who he got on with. He formed a lasting friendship with a conservatively inclined Norwegian oil publisher living in London, Hugo Steinnes, when the two of them serendipitously met up after the collapse of the Soviet Union and decided to draw on Stuart’s Russian connections, including with the progressive magazine Argumenty i Fakty, to set up a Russian oil publishing venture. Much vodka was consumed on a trip to Russia but the venture failed to make their fortunes. Back in the UK Stuart edited and published an English-language version, Arguments and Facts, for several years.

In Russia: Stuart, third from left, with colleagues from Argumenty i Fakti and his business partner Hugo Steinnes (far left).

Under the pseudonym of Francisco Ferrer I Guardia, Stuart was also the editorial force behind The Hastings Trawler, which combined a little local muck-raking with articles celebrating life in Hastings written by local characters and well-known personages (the complete collection can be found on HOT).

With his mother in Hastings in the 1990s.

On HOT’s behalf he reviewed Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Stables theatre in 2012, appending copious notes to explain the historical background to the piece.

In turn HOT reviewed his Pistoleros trilogy, an account of the life of a fictional Glaswegian anarchist caught up in the Spanish civil war, replete with detailed historical notes and photos. Stuart declined to put his name on the books.

In 2015, or thereabouts, to the bafflement of their many friends, Stuart and Brenda moved to Clacton-on-Sea where they knew no one. Stuart stayed in close touch through his FB postings, but never returned to Hastings. Brenda died last year, after which Stuart moved to a village outside Chelmsford.

He was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Last week his condition unexpectedly worsened, and he died on Saturday with Branwen by his side.

Wesley Magoogan writes:

Wesley and Lester Magoogan, whose artistic career Stuart helped to launch.

I first met Stuart via the journalist Jonathan Marks and we struck up an immediate friendship.

Stuart was instrumental in helping to get Lester’s art (Lester Magoogan) off the ground and myself to learn Photoshop etc.
We made a short film about the Spanish Civil War together, Red Years Black Years.
He was a man who imbued loyalty and a great friend to myself and family. He will be greatly missed.

Jake Arnott writes:
Stuart leaves behind a great literary legacy, as a publisher of everything from political theory to Latin American crime thrillers, and as a writer himself.

His memoir Granny Made me an Anarchist is a triumph of the genre –a heartfelt chronicle of his times, passionate, incisive and very, very funny. Everybody who knew him will remember this: he had a way with words.

Ukelele Dave – another anarchist, poet and pillar of the community said: “Stuart had been something of a hero when I was a teenager and read his books. When we first set up Hastings Anarchists back in 2010 he would come and give talks and as I was running a bar at the time he would pop in regularly to catch up, find out what was happening and what he could do to help and offer advice.”

Stuart was also a friend of John Rety – the Hungarian anarchist, writer and chess player (and father of Hastings-based artist Emily Johns).

With Freedom Press comrades, John Rety mounted the immediate defence campaign on Stuart’s arrest in Spain.

The photograph on the right shows a young Emily flying a kite with Stuart in 1973 (Stuart would have been about 27).

You can read more about the Hastings Trawler and follow links to all the issues in this HOT article from December 2012.

You can find some of Stuart’s works online at Christie Books. He also curated the valuable Anarchist Film Archive site putting Spanish and anarchist documents and films on the web.

Please leave your memories of Stuart in the comments section.

Posted 12:31 Wednesday, Aug 19, 2020 In: Obituary

3 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Tim Barton

    I too became friends with Stuart when I pitched up in Hastings. Bookbuster sold over 60 copies of GMMAA, and gifted a few to Stuart as the publisher had broken contract by not offering remaindered copies to him first!

    Nick is mystified by Stuart’s move to the UKIP capital of Essex (he got there just in time for a first successful UKIP election to the council there, which we joked must have somehow been his fault). In a way I found it odd too, but taking his explanation at face value the oddness is more a commentary on housing issues in England. My recollection was that he told me he had to move to a flat or bungalow with flat wheelchair entry and a wheelchair accessible garden for Brenda, or at least he implied a mobility issue: but his daughter says not, so I guess I am also mystified. After looking locally, unsuccessfully, he looked further afield.

    When I first spoke to him about it, he was looking in Thanet (which was bad enough), and I was saddened when all he could find was in the Clacton/Holland/Frinton backwaters of Essex Boy (I say this as an Essex boy myself, so know whereof, etc). As I say, this is taking Stuart’s explanation at face-value, I can’t say whether other factors were relevant to his decision but assume there must have been?.

    We kept in touch via Facebook, but as for most of us here in Hastings, I didn’t get to see him after he left. He was, and will be, much missed.

    Comment by Tim Barton — Monday, Aug 24, 2020 @ 13:43

  2. Hilda Kean

    This was an excellent obituary.

    Hope that Nick or Duncan Campbell will be in touch with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography to include a clear biography of Stuart Christie? (He was even included on BBC Radio 4 programme Friday 21st at 4pm re remembering people who have recently died.)

    It would be good if the council could agree to a plaque commemorating his time living in Hastings. (The council rarely agrees this even when there are clear details even on the Oxford DNB etc as I have discovered in the past..,)

    Comment by Hilda Kean — Sunday, Aug 23, 2020 @ 18:57

  3. Michael Madden

    Many thanks for this excellent obituary Nick and Erica,
    I was put in touch by a mutual friend, because Stuart once wrote an article in The Hastings’ Trawler about the dangers of Freemasonry. He sent the article and then, several years later, a neighbour lent my wife his great book: ‘My Granny Made me an Anarchist’, because she too is fascinated by the Spanish Civil War; its causes and consequences. I sent him an email saying how much we loved it, and he said he’d try to pop when he was in town. I had no idea he was ill and feel sad that I”ll never meet him because his courage, humour and intelligence shine through the book.
    I would urge anyone who hasn’t read it to do so – not just a lucid insight into Spain under Franco, an often humorous account of the sometimes shambolic efforts of anarchist groups, but also a vivid expose of the British political/legal establishment and its willingness to silence (or even frame) a completely innocent citizen (who was NOT a member of the Angry Brigade) for daring to question the viability of the status quo.

    Comment by Michael Madden — Wednesday, Aug 19, 2020 @ 16:01

Leave a comment

(no more than 350 words)

Also in: Obituary


»
More HOT Stuff
  • SUPPORT HOT

    HOT is run by volunteers but has overheads for hosting and web development. Support HOT!

    ADVERTISING

    Advertise your business or your event on HOT for as little as £20 per month
    Find out more…

    DONATING

    If you like HOT and want to keep it sustainable, please Donate via PayPal, it’s easy!

    VOLUNTEERING

    Do you want to write, proofread, edit listings or help sell advertising? then contact us

    SUBSCRIBE
  • Subscribe to HOT