John Rety 1930-2010

John Rety 1930-2010

I'm sad to announce that John Rety, ex editor of Freedom and poetry editor for the Morning Star, died last night after a heart attack.

John is today best known for his role in London's poetry scene, as co-founder of Torriano Nights, but he played a lasting role in the British anarchist movement from his arrival in the country in 1947, throwing himself into its various publications, including a lengthy stint as the editor of Freedom newspaper.

Even after his retirement, he would show up every so often to cast his experienced eye over proceedings, commenting on the first day I took over as editor: "You do realise your campaign to Free Dom will never work."

He was also an accomplished chess player, representing Britain at international level for older masters - though, typically self-effacing, he would insist he felt like he was just making up the numbers. It's gutting that I'll never be able to get thrashed at that game-with-three-boards he was enthusiastically talking about last year.

John was a well-loved member of the anarchist movement, and my abiding memory of him will be of his final appearance at the anarchist bookfair last October, surrounded by well-wishers and overjoyed that his book of political poetry, Well Versed, was to see a second print run - an almost unheard of achievement.

I'll leave it here as I knew John for only a brief period and others, who spent a lifetime with him, will hopefully fill in the rest, but every time I met him I was impressed by his gentle humour, his love of life and the way he never gave up on his dream of a better world.

Posted By

Rob Ray
Feb 4 2010 14:32


Attached files


Red Marriott
Feb 4 2010 19:49

2008 interview with John talking about his early life and political development;

Feb 4 2010 23:12

yeah, he was a very nice bloke, this is sad news... I remember the Free Dom thing as well, I think we were both in the office that day.

Danny Hotspur
Feb 5 2010 15:28


John was always a source of incredible inspiration, full of fascinating stories...the day he tried to teach me the rudiments of Chinese Chess will long be remembered!
I work at the CNJ and want tow rite a fitting tribute - can you let any one who knew John to get in touch with me at



Rob Ray
Feb 5 2010 16:47
Feb 6 2010 15:46

I'm very saddened by John's death. I first met him outside a support meeting in Brighton for the activists who had disrupted Harold Wilson's reading of the lesson at a Brighton Methodist church in 1966 in protest against the Labour government's backing of American intervention in Vietnam( Nicolas Walter and Jim Radford got 2 months imprisonment for that). Later encounters were at the anarchist conference in Liverpool and outside premises occupied by Brighton squatters both in 1969 . More recently I regularly bumped into him in Kentish Town where he lived and I worked.
As another tribute says John always wore his heart on his sleeve. He could sometimes be exasperating but I think what he will finally be remembered for is the unconditional support (it's what's called solidarity) that he gave to so many in so many ways. One example of this was when Stuart Christie was arrested in connection with the bombing of the Bank of Bilbao in London ( no charges were ever brought against him) in 1969. John walked miles from Camden Town to Bow Street "on hearing of our arrest to help. With friends like that you can't go far wrong".( Edward Heath Made Me Angry, Stuart Christie).
Shit, I'll miss you you crazy old Magyar!

bill sherman
Feb 7 2010 18:29

very brief obit. on my blog after receiving this sad news: with deep sympathy to his family and friends. i'll miss you, man.

Mar 2 2010 22:14
Boris Badenov
Mar 3 2010 00:33
When his widowed mother came to London in 1956 they had little contact after a while because she said she wanted to marry again and could not do so with a bearded son. After meeting Susan Johns, with whom he was to have a son and a daughter, Rety opened a furniture shop in Camden High Street, where he sold an Edwardian writing desk to an American who asked him to re-cover it in blue leather. She kept asking when it would be ready, explaining that she was writing on her knees in the meantime. But when he took it to her house, a man told him to "f--- off" and that the woman was dead. On returning home, Susan told him that the lady was the poet Sylvia Plath, and he had just met her husband Ted Hughes.

So now we know why Plath offed herself.

Has anyone read anything by Rety? Anything to recommend?

Aug 29 2010 17:49

John Rety:

I remember John blowing up and popping brown paper bags on Whitehall, to protest the sonic booms of the Concorde airliner!