Obituary: John Harwood 1956-2021

John Harwood speaking at an NF meeting in the West Midlands in 1990: also on platform (left to right) are John Hill, NF Chairman Ian Anderson, and Norman Tomkinson

Former Newcastle NF (Flag faction) branch organiser John Harwood died at his home on February 4th, surrounded by family members, aged 65. He had been in bad heath for two years but had been out of active nationalist politics for many years.

John was a well-read man, a good artist and poet. He loved a joke and was a popular man with the locals at many a Geordie pub. He enjoyed looking through antique and charity shops and would dabble in pottery himself. He also enjoyed his local history, was interested in his local community and was very proud to both a Geordie and an Englishman.

John was born in Newcastle hospital on February 10th 1956 and was raised in Elswick in the West End of Newcastle, famous for its Scotswood Road and the Blaydon Races (I’m sure you know the song) – by his parents Tom and Vivienne. He was one of a large family.

Around 1980 and upset with the way the country was going he joined the Tyneside branch of the National Front, and soon became one of their key activists. He painted the local branch banner and enjoyed all the nationalist activities both local and national, traveling many times down to London and back in a day.

John Harwood (left) with Colin Todd (right) in 1984 at the old Newcastle NF HQ on Buckingham Street, in the Leazes area of the city.

Kevin Scott first remembers meeting John in 1983 at a BNP meeting in the Turk’s Head Hotel in Newcastle opposite the Central Station at a post General Election meeting where John Tyndall was the guest speaker. He says.

“I later arranged to meet JH and attend local BNP meetings in Gateshead with other Tyneside based nationalists though he was later to join the NF as you say.

After that, I remember attending a Newcastle NF meeting in the city centre when JH was organiser during a brief alliance between the NF (Flag Group) and BNP brokered by Andrew Brons of the NF and Stanley Clayton Garnett of the BNP, if I remember correctly.

JH managed to make the NF in Newcastle a worthy political  force during his time as organiser, akin to Ken Booth’s effort with the BNP much later, attracting the ire of the local print and broadcast media, particularly the Newcastle Chronicle and Northern Echo which featured the NF’s recruitment efforts in places such as nearby Consett after the closure of the local steel works.

“I know that when the NF split JH ended up in the NF Flag Group and Colin Todd sided with the Official NF Cadres.

Later, after both factions of the NF slowly imploded, JH attended BNP meetings and activities helping local and general elections campaigns in Newcastle and further afield though he never joined the party.”

He saw the changes in the poor White working-class area where he grew up, until it became unrecognisable. This he thought was no fault of those who came from far off lands to settle there, but to the short sighted and career minded politicians who loved what President George Bush later called the “New World Order”, rather than their own country and people. John did what he thought right for all and stood by those principles until the end.

Two Newcastle branch activists, Bob Smith (left) and Brian Husband (right) selling NF News in 1985 at the Quayside Market, near the River Tyne.

During the NF split of 1985-86, the large and highly successful Newcastle branch split into two warring factions. John sided with the “NF Flag group” (led by Ian Anderson, Martin Wingfield, Joe Pearce, and Steve Brady). The former branch organiser Colin Todd (now editor of Candour), sided with the “Official NF Cadre faction” (led by Nick Griffin, Pat Harrington, Derek Holland, and Graham Williamson). Some local members did not join either “faction”, but instead defected to the rival British National Party (led by John Tyndall). 

Sadly, there was extreme violence on both sides which finished evens. The problems the two factions had politically we could have handled in Newcastle, but some on the cadre side wound them up and turned former comrades against each other.

Before Colin Todd, left Newcastle he and John had made up, and until John had a stroke a few years back he would send long letters. John missed the comradeship and having someone of a certain understanding to bounce ideas off.

His funeral service was held at the West Road as befitting his west end Newcastle origins. Due to ongoing restrictions it was attended only by his family and several close comrades including an H&D subscriber.

The likes of John Harwood will not be seen again. H&D salutes a fallen comrade.

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