Obituary: John Brailey (Stoke Newington, 2 April 1934-Lewisham Hospital, 21 March 2012), printer, bookseller, anti-war activist and life-long anarcho-syndicalist.

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John Brailey, anarcho-syndicalist (1934-2012)

John Brailey, SOGAT rank-and-file militant (with fellow anarchist Albert Meltzer) and anti-war activist, worked for many years as a printer in Fleet Street until the mid-1980s when the newspaper print industry moved to Wapping, after which he became involved in bookselling.

A founder member of the Committee of 100, John was closely associated with the ‘Spies for Peace’ group in 1963 and was one of those who demonstrated against the Greek royal family during their visit to London in the summer of 1963, the first time the Queen of England had been booed on the streets of London. He  also among those who occupied the Greek Embassy in London in April 1967.

My first contact with the Brailey family was when John’s partner, Laura, visited Brian and Margaret Hart at their flat at 57 Ladbroke Road in Notting Hill (where I was living at the time). Brian and Margaret hosted the monthly Notting Hill anarchist meetings (from which sprang, eventually, the Notting Hill Anarchist Group). She’d brought her three children along, and telling me about it later Brian told me the little boy was ralking excitedly about the moon. All the kids were well behaved, but lively and natural. They had all just moved into Peter Lumsden’s large and rambling apartment in Colville Houses further down Notting Hill. Peter, a truly saintly person, was a great admirer of the US Catholic Anarchist movement round Dorothy Day (Catholic Worker Movement), and had visited their centre for ‘down and outs’ (‘the Joe Hill House of Hospitality’) run by Ammon Hennacy, the Irish American Christian anarchist and pacifist in Salt Lake City. Anyway, Peter wanted to run something similar in the UK, but was unable turn anyone away and his place soon filled up with less unfortunate leftists, mostly under forty and unmarried, with housing problems. Many of these were members of — or associated with — the London Committee of 100 (as opposed to the more holier-than-thou Committee of 100 people around Bertrand Russell). These included some of the original ‘Eskimos’ — Terry Chandler and Mike Nolan — who attempted to board the Polaris submarine Patrick Henry on the Clyde from their kayaks in 1961. It was also home to the late Doug Brewood Jr, the only (as far as I know) identified member of the ‘Spies for Peace’ group. In fact Colville Houses was such a hotbed of radical activism that the security service had at least one agent planted there as a tenant. The one I am aware of, a guy called Darren, was exposed when someone asked him for change and, pulling a handful of coins from his pocket, a brass button inscribed ‘RAF Police’ fell to the floor.

I went to Spain soon after and didn’t re-establish contact with John until 4 or 5 years later when I was working closely with Albert Meltzer, who by that time was employed as a copytaker on the Daily Sketch and, later, on the Daily Telegraph, and quite often would run into John in ‘The Albion’ bar, with Albert, after SOGAT meetings, or on demonstrations. In later years, after Wapping, John took up second-hand bookselling, and he would be my first port of call if I was looking for a particular title or the back issue of some magazine or other. He’ll be sadly missed! May the earth lie lightly on you, John.

Stuart Christie

Danger! Official Secret: the Spies for Peace: Discretion and Disclosure in the Committee of 100 by Sam Carroll