Tribute to dalesman and foreign journalist

First published in News

A FORMER foreign correspondent, whose biggest scoop came during the early years of the Cold War, has died aged 83.

John Rettie, who lived in Coverdale, North Yorkshire, spent nearly 50 years stationed abroad, working mostly for the Guardian newspaper and the news agency, Reuters.

In 1954, while one of only a handful of foreign correspondents in Moscow, he broke the story of Communist leader Nikita Khruschev’s secret speech denouncing the crimes of his predecessor, Joseph Stalin.

Mr Rettie had been approached by a Soviet contact, who gave a full account of what had been said. Reuters published his story, anonymously, and it became front page news around the world.

Years later, Mr Rettie concluded that Mr Khruschev had authorised the leak, a probability vouched for by his son, Sergei.

Mr Rettie also worked in Latin America, Finland, Mexico, Sri Lanka and India.

He was described, in an obituary in the Guardian, as an “old-fashioned liberal, endlessly witty and amusing, a wonderful storyteller and teacher”

and with an “immense, global army of friends”.

Born in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, Mr Rettie went to school in the Yorkshire Dales.

Joining Reuters after studying at Cambridge, he was first despatched to Helsinki, in Finland. In Moscow, Mr Rettie watched Mr Khruschev for three years. “It all made great copy,” he recalled.

He left Moscow in 1957, standing as Liberal candidate for Middlesbrough West ten years later. He was third in the General Election.

After retirement, he moved into a small gamekeeper’s house on the family estate in Coverdale.

He leaves two former wives, a son and a daughter from his second marriage, and a sister.


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