STUART Christie, who died last Saturday, was an internationally renowned anarchist thinker and activist, most famous for his attempt on Franco’s life in 1964, when he was 18 years of age. He was also my friend. In the short time I knew him he displayed the down-to-earth quality you would expect from a Partick lad. But what a Partick lad!

The youthful idealism and steel were still very much in evidence, although hardened and forged in the furnace of experience. Where most had dreamt and moved on to the next dream, Stuart had dreamt and then acted on the dream. He showed real warmth and a keen interest in what I had to say. His learning and experience shone through his conversation and, although he was very modest about his personal experiences, I was acutely aware that, when I talked to him, I was talking to a man who had lived 10 lifetimes to my one.

The last time I spoke with him was when we had lunch at Glasgow Art Club just prior to the lockdown. I remember explaining my worries about my ageing dog Humphrey, and Stuart spent a long time discussing how to help the dog and support him. I asked him about his most striking visual memories of his time in Franco’s Carabanchel Prison, as I had the vague idea of painting a picture based on his time there. He all but painted the picture for me in words. He described someone being marched along a corridor in the middle of the night past his cell on the way to being executed by garrotte in the basement of the prison. The prisoner was a tall gypsy man, the guards were all virtually dwarves, and the governor was wearing his best uniform with all his shiny medals clinking on his chest as the procession followed the murmuring priest along the dimly lit corridor. This is still to be painted on canvas but it remains vivid in my imagination. It will be my personal tribute to a man who represents the highest possible level of political commitment and integrity.

Stuart also figures in another composition I am engaged with at the moment, a large painting depicting a group of friends with shared artistic and political interests who meet up regularly in Partick. It will be based on Caravaggio’s Calling of St Matthew. It turned out that several of the group knew Stuart and we were delighted when, with great humour and enthusiasm, he agreed to literally step into the frame. This painting will be a celebration of friendship and common feeling. When it is completed next month, Stuart’s presence in it will add great poignance for us.

The drawing presented here is my depiction of a young Stuart contemplating the perilous action he undertook in Spain. He is dressed fashionably for the time, 1964. Behind him on the wall is the Black Cross symbol of the organisation

he helped set up to support prisoners of Franco’s fascist regime. Through the window is the street cafe in Madrid where he was arrested by Franco’s Gestapo-trained secret police. In the words of poet Konstantinos Kavafis:

“Honour to those who in the life they lead

define and guard a Thermopylae.

Never betraying what is right,

consistent and just in all they do.”