Get a coffee , this is a GREAT read! In July 2014, I became aware that Blantyre Project had an interesting follower on Social Media. Mr Stuart Christie, ex-Blantyre boy who has quite a colourful and remarkable lifestory to date. Indeed, and I write this with his permission, Stuart was arrested in 1964, as an 18-year-old while carrying explosives to assassinate the Spanish dictator General Franco.
Quite a tale for a young boy from Blantyre!
Early Life – Stuart was born in the Partick area of Glasgow and was raised in Blantyre, by his mother and grandparents, becoming an anarchist at a young age. He ascribes this to his grandmother’s influence, “Basically, what she did was provide a moral barometer which married almost exactly with that of libertarian socialism and anarchism, and she provided the star which I followed.” He joined the Anarchist Federation in Glasgow in 1962, at the age of 16. He became active in CND campaigns, attracted to the more militant approach directed against the Polaris subs and mother ships based in the Holy Loch.
Attempt to assassinate Franco – On the last day of July 1964, 18-year-old Stuart Christie departed London for Paris, where he picked up plastic explosives from the anarchist organisation Defensa Interior, and then on to Madrid on a mission to kill General Francisco Franco. This was to be one of at least 30 attempts on the dictator’s life.
Before he left England, he was interviewed for a television programme with Malcolm Muggeridge, a known MI6 contact, and was asked whether he felt the assassination of Franco would be right. He answered that it would; when the programme was broadcast after his arrest in Spain, these comments were edited out.
Christie hitchhiked into Spain and was arrested in Madrid on 11 August 1964. At the time he was in possession of explosives. Christie faced a military trial and a possible execution sentence by garrote, but was instead ordered to serve 20 years in prison.
On Wednesday 2nd September 1964, The Mirror reported, ” BRITISH teenager Stuart Christie told a Spanish army court today that he carried explosives into Spain — but only because he thought he was bringing political pamphlets. Then the Madrid court found 18-year-old Christie guilty of terrorist activities . . . and gave him twenty years’ jail. A Spaniard accused with Christie, Madrid carpenter Fernando Blanco, 40, was jailed for thirty years. Both sentences have to be approved by the Madrid Region’s Military Commander before taking effect. Christie, in corduroy coat, jeans and open sandals, had sat with head bowed as the prosecutor, Major Luis Amado, demanded the twenty-year sentence. The boy’s mother, Mrs. Olive Christie, who had travelled from her home at Blantyre, Scotland, sat ten feet behind him — the only woman in the 200-strong courtroom crowd.
From time to time, British consul Francis Sedgwick-Jell leaned across and explained what was happening. Stuart Christie, speaking almost in a whisper, told the court panel of five Army officers that his adventure had begun in London, where a woman named Margaret Hart asked him to contact friends in Paris. He said he went to Paris and met a man named Salvador. Salvador, he said, gave him £24 in French money . . . and a parcel. “The man told me the parcel contained propaganda pamphlets.” Christie said. “It was not until I reached Spain and arrived in Barcelona that I discovered it contained explosives and detonators.”
Why didn’t Christie take the explosives to the police? “I thought I would be put in prison,” he explained, “And I thought that if I threw the parcel away, someone might get hurt.”
So, Christie said, he hitch-hiked to Madrid, where he was arrested after collecting a letter from the American Express tourist office. Christie agreed that he had helped the police catch the man accused with him, carpenter Blanco. Blanco, who is deaf — his thirty-year sentence had to be shouted so that he could hear it — told the court that he was arrested when he approached Christie. He said he was supposed to plant bombs for the anarchist movement — but always made sure the bombs did not go off.
At the end of the hearing, Christie, in handcuffs, was allowed to see his mother for ten minutes, in a small office at Madrid Military District Headquarters, where the trial had been held.”
An accomplice, Fernando Carballo Blanco, was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment. However, he served ‘only’ three years in Carabanchel Prison, where he studied for A-Levels and was brought into contact with anarchist prisoners, including Miguel Garcia, Luis Andres Edo and Juan Busquets. Christie was freed on 21 September 1967, thanks to international pressure, with support from notables such as Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. The official reason given by the Franco regime was that it was due to a plea from Christie’s mother.
On September 19th 1967, some 3 years later, the Mirror again reported, ” STUART CHRISTIE, 21, is to be freed from a Spanish jail in the next few days after serving three years of a twenty-year sentence. His widowed mother, 42-year-old Mrs Olive Christie, has been told by the Spanish Ambassador that her “dignity and motherly concern” had a lot to do with the decision. Christie, of Calder Street, Blantyre, Scotland, was jailed in 1964 for carrying a parcel of explosives into Spain. He said he thought the parcel held propaganda material. Two appeals for mercy failed. Then this month, Christie’s mother sent an appeal to Spanish dictator General Franco. Yesterday she received a letter from the Spanish Ambassador, the Marquis of Santa Cruz, announcing that Franco had decided to free her son.
The letter said : “I am sure that this decision is owed in great measure to the dignity and motherly concern shown in your letter, and in the restraint and propriety with which you have approached this unhappy incident.” It added : “I cannot but stress that it is to you that the credit for Stuart’s release must go. Mrs Christie, of Victoria Street, Blantyre, was making plans last night to fly to Spain to meet Stuart on his release, he has still not been told that he is to be freed. Mrs Christie said: “I have hoped and prayed for this.” She added: “The Spanish Authorities have been wonderful to me, they have been most courteous and helpful.”
Back in Britain – After his release he continued his activism in the anarchist movement in the United Kingdom, re-formed the Anarchist Black Cross and Black Flag with Albert Meltzer, was acquitted of involvement with the Angry Brigade, and started the publishing house Cienfuegos Press (later Refract Publications), which for a number of years he operated from the remote island of Sanday, Orkney, where he also edited and published a local Orcadian newspaper, The Free-Winged Eagle.
Christie has had various writing and journalistic jobs including as editor of an unauthorised British edition of Pravda and Argumenty i Fakty (Arguments and Facts International) during the late years of the Soviet Union and the early years of the Russian Federation. He also worked as Production Editor with IT Matters, publishers of The House Magazine, the weekly UK journal for both Houses of Parliament, during the late ’80s.
Publication – Today, at 68 years old, Stuart is an accomplished Scottish anarchist writer and publisher. An updated and single-volume version of his autobiography “Granny Made Me an Anarchist” was published in 2004. I’m halfway through reading this and found it absolutely riveting! The book can be found here:
With Stuart’s permission back in July, over the next few days, I’ll be posting a few small parts of this book, in relation to Stuart’s recollections about Blantyre. What is published is interesting, nostaligic and with a wit that I can associate with. The main read about Stuart’s exploits in Spain is well worth this being on your Christmas list.