Obituary: Reg Birch

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The Independent Online
REG BIRCH, whose eccentricities were so engagingly outlined by Terry Pattinson (17 June), not only used Tirana as a stop-over on his journeys to Peking, but took charge of the pro-Communist Albania Society of Britain when Enver Hoxha, the Albanian dictator, switched from Soviet to Chinese sponsorship, writes Henry Roe.

The society faithfully followed each of Hoxha's switches of allegiance, but always under new management at each change - from Tito to Stalin to Mao. The constant factor was the members who, anonymous at home, but feted, flattered and photographed in Tirana, thought of Hoxha's Albania as a Socialist Shangri-La.

During the Chinese avatar, meetings under Birch were enlivened by his Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) stalwarts, who knew little about Albania but added moral weight and voting muscle. He gave every sign of relishing this not untypical example of Marxist manipulation of what Lenin called his 'holy fools'.