John Wright 1954-2023

I received an email this morning from H&D‘s lawyer: “Mark – Some sad news: our friend John Wright died on Thursday 21st December. He suffered a fall at his flat followed, it seems, by a major brain haemorrhage. John was in any event suffering from advanced dementia and had little recollection of his own life’s history or present circumstances, the second of which was a blessing in some ways.”

John Wright was 69 years old, and died in his native South London, where he had lived all his life. A true Londoner, and one of the few White British Londoners left in that part of the capital today.

Born in Brixton, Lambeth, in 1954 to an English mother and Northern Irish father, John moved to the neighbouring borough Southwark, after the rest of his family moved up to the Northeast of England in the 1970s.

John Wright (above left) with Kristin Duke (and her baby Chloe) and Mark Cotterill, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, 1998.

For a good chunk of his adult working life, John worked for the Daily Telegraph newspaper in their advertising department (where he picked up the nickname Bristow, after the cartoon character, who some claimed he resembled!). First, he worked at the Telegraph‘s Fleet Street offices, and then moved over to their new offices at Docklands, Canary Wharf, in 1987 (where I visited him a couple of times).

Always interested in politics, John joined the National Front in June 1979, after watching their TV General Election broadcast the previous month. The TV broadcast (as well as election leaflets) brought the NF over 10,000 enquiries, of which it is estimated that 200-300 joined.

However, those were not good days for the NF, and they encountered a number of splits in the coming year, with the party breaking up into three or four different factions. John stayed loyal to the official NF, at the time led by their Chairman Andrew Brons with Richard Verrall as his deputy. However, the party was really run by the NF’s national activities organiser Martin Webster, from their Great Eastern Street HQ at Excalibur House, in Tower Hamlets – London’s East End.

John stood as an NF candidate a number of times at both local and national level, including one of the famous four GLC by-elections in 1984, where he contested Lewisham West, polling 266 votes (1.7%). He also helped in many other elections when he was not a candidate himself, including the infamous Vauxhall by-election of 1988, when there were two NF candidates! John supported the Flag NF candidate Ted Budden, and personally addressed thousands of envelopes for Ted’s election address.

John was very interested in community politics (which we have covered in recent issues of H&D) and he (with a handful of other activists) build up one the NF’s most successful paper rounds in Lambeth in the early-mid 1980s, where he and others sold NF News and Nationalism Today door to door to White people in Lambeth branch’s target wards.

When the NF Cadre/Flag split in 1985/86 happened, John like most of the activists in Lambeth Branch did not support either side, he just walked away. Their local organiser Mick Turner, who had backed the Griffin/Harrington faction, was left with very few members and almost no activists. The NF as we knew it then was dead, never really to recover again.

However, John stayed interested in nationalism and although not a member of any party kept up with all the happenings on the nationalist scene. I first met him in 1985 when he travelled down to Devon to attend the wedding of another former Lambeth branch member Mark Spong who had moved to Plymouth a few years earlier to attend Plymouth Poly – now that’s another story for another day…

John, along with Dave Moon (who sadly died a few years ago) and his long-standing friend Ray Heath stayed in Torquay (where I was living at the time) over the weekend of the wedding, and we all met up for the first time then, on Mark’s stag night. It was a proper stag night in those days – held the day before the wedding, not like the stag dos of day which are held a week or so earlier!

The wedding, which was held the next day in Plymouth, brought together many nationalists from the London area, including H&D‘s future lawyer. And as they say, we all kept in touch from that day onwards. All due to Mark Spong getting married in Devon!

With the bulk of the nationalist movement (outside the BNP) on its knees by the early 1990s, John was one of the original ten founders of Right NOW! magazine, along with me. We built the magazine up from scratch until it had a subscription base of over a thousand and a circulation of over 2,000. Sadly, Derrick Turner decided to close the magazine down in 2006 – which John (and I) thought was a big mistake – but there you go.

Throughout the mid to late 1980s and early to mid-1990s, I kept in touch with John, and stayed over at his flat in the Elephant and Castle, just off the Old Kent Road in South London, dozens of times, when I was up in London, for NF or Right NOW! events, and when my football team Wolves played in London.

John was a massive Millwall FC supporter, and would attend most “Wall” home games at their ground, The Den. He would stand on the Dock Side, AKA the “Halfway Line”, come rain or shine. I attended a couple of matches with him at The Den, against my team Wolves, but also an end of season thriller against Newcastle United in 1993, who were managed at the time by Kevin Keegan. There must have been at least 10,000 Geordies at The Den that day. The game was a sell-out, and the atmosphere was electric!

John also came down to Devon from time to time where he used to stay at his friend Ray’s house in Abottskerswell, just outside of Torquay. We always used to met up for a few beers and a meal when he was in the area.

In my final week before I moved over to live in the States in July 1995, we had a farewell drink at the famous Orange Brewery Pub (which was once frequented by GK Chesterton no less!) in Victoria, in central London. In fact, the Orange Brewery was always one of our regular drinking spots when I visited London.

Normally after a Saturday night’s drinking, we would all end up at the Pimlico Tandoori, one of the area’s finest Indian restaurants. John was a creature of habit and would normally have the Butter Chicken, with pilau rice, onion bhajis and a keema naan bread.

On the Sunday lunchtime, after a full English breakfast in the morning, we would head over to the Surprise Pub, near “Little Portugal”, just north of Brixton, where we would meet up with Ray for an afternoon session, before returning to John’s flat at the Elephant and Castle for a Sunday roast. I remember everything on the plate was laid out neatly, not a pea out of place! Good days – and good meals!

John came over and visited me in the States in 1998, when I lived in Vienna, Northern Virginia (just outside Washington DC). I can remember the expression on his face when he landed at Washington Dulles Airport, after an eight-hour flight from London Heathrow. He was in desperate need of a fag (cigarette), after being denied a smoke during the Atlantic crossing, and the first thing he did when we got out of the airport was “light one up”.

During that holiday, we flew down to Daytona Beach, on Florida’s east coast, where he hired a car and we drove down the coast to New Smyrna Beach (where we stayed in a beach front condo for a few days, kindly lent to us by the former Council of Conservative Citizens leader Gordon Baum). We were joined there by Kristin Duke (David’s younger daughter) and her half-brother Derek Black (Don Black’s son). That sure was an interesting few days to say the least!

John did not realise how hot Florida would be in August and did not really bring any suitable clothes! So, Kristin took him out to the local mall and kitted him out in some shorts and T-shirts, clothing more suitable for Florida’s tropical climate.

I remember while we were there the Yanks launched a rocket into space from Cape Canaveral – an hour south down that east coast. We drove out of town, and with thousands of others watched it go into outer space. Some sight, I can tell you.

When that holiday was over, we drove north back up to Daytona Beach, where we returned the hire car, and met up with Don Black who drove us up to Charleston, South Carolina, where the CofCC was having their biennial convention. We stayed there for the weekend, and after the convention was over, we drove back to Northern Virginia with Zack (who at the time ran the CofCC’s youth section and lived very close to me in northern VA).

When my mother died in February 2002, I flew back to England for the funeral with Kristin Duke. We landed at Heathrow early morning, then made our way to Paddington. John kindly took time off to meet us there and show Kristin around all the tourist sites in the capital that Yanks love: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower of London, etc. Before ending up at a traditional London pub for lunch. John also met us back in London, a few days later in Millbank, near the River Thames, just before we flew back to the States, for a farewell drink with all the usual suspects.

In later years, John would go over to Benidorm in Spain with his good friend Dave Moon, also a former Lambeth NF activist, for a few weeks in the sunshine every now and then. He would also do the Dover to Calais “booze and fag” run every few months, so he could stock up on tobacco, beer, spirits and his beloved bars of chocolate!

The last time I saw John, was at an H&D subscribers’ meet-up at the historic Royal Oak pub in South London, maybe six or seven years ago. He was on fine form that day, but sadly not long after that he would start going downhill.

I will miss John, he was a good guy, one of those in the movement who normally did not have a bad word to say about anybody. He was a creature of habit and just got on with his life and did almost the same things and went to almost the same places every week – but that was his way, and what he enjoyed. He was a nationalist until the end.

Mark Cotterill, Editor – Heritage and Destiny

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