Memories of Peter Walker
By Lorna Marsland
Pete Walker, treasured friend.
I first met Pete Walker in autumn 1988 on a meet in Chew Valley. It was my second KMC meet and was led by Frank Williams, and I remember distinctly thinking that these meet leaders all had very different objectives. The previous weekend had been Jim Gregson’s Snowdon Horseshoe meet, which provided a challenging route at top speed over some very precarious ground, with few opportunities for refreshments. This Chew Valley meet was quite the opposite and I discovered that I had insufficient coffee to last the day, so it was memorable for that reason alone. But on this meet, between coffee stops, we contoured the valley, stopping briefly at a monument on the skyline. I was standing next to Pete when he read out the inscription below the figure on the war memorial to the men of Tameside, which gave the date 21 August …. (can’t remember the year). He pointed at the inscription and said, ‘That’s my birthday’. I looked at him and said, ‘It’s mine too!’ and this piece of shared history created something of a bond between us from that point onwards
The following year found us both on the fell race at Irish Row. I was quite new to fell running and wasn’t too comfortable with the idea of running alone on the mountains, so I welcomed the sight of Pete running in the same direction. He chatted a lot, as was usual and I discovered as I was panting my way around the fells that we lived quite close to each other. He suggested I might benefit from some training and offered to show me some local routes, and we went out on a few training sessions that autumn.
During these sessions as I struggled to talk, he told me that I was really running not jogging, if I couldn’t talk and run. He also advised me not to run with arms tense and bent as this posture was reserved for the sprint finish. I should be running with relaxed arms to avoid using up energy unnecessarily – something I have had cause to remember on many subsequent occasions. I also learnt that he had been Head of PE at Parrswood High School and had recently retired but being reluctant to give up teaching, had secured a position at Cheadle Hulme School, in the primary department, which he spoke about fondly. I think Pete really loved teaching and helping people achieve their potential, and I certainly had cause to be grateful for the advice he gave me.
Over the years we often met up on walking meets and would catch up on things of interest to both of us. We were both keen skiers and would compare notes on resorts, resources and weather conditions in the winter, and on family and holidays and the like.
As time wore on Pete and Liverpool Jones had begun to deviate from the official route on walking meets when the distances became more challenging, so it was no surprise to see him at Jo and Andy Stratford’s house in Mossley, after a particularly wet trog over the moors in October 2017. Pete and Liverpool were already there when we got back, having had the good sense to choose a shorter walk and were happily tucking into Jo’s mouth-watering cakes. He looked well and greeted me in his usual fashion:
‘Well, if it isn’t Lorna Marsland!’ He always used my surname as if the club is awash with Lorna’s, and we chatted for what was to be the last time.
A few months later David and I moved to Chichester in West Sussex and Pete became too ill to attend any further meets, so I believe, and certainly any of the few I have been able to attend since then. Keith Williams has kept me up to date with Pete’s efforts in managing the illness, and realising that I was unlikely to see him again, I wrote him a letter, recalling our initial meeting. I received a lovely reply in response, telling me that he too remembered the meet in 1988 and informed me the name of the person whose death was commemorated on our birthday and which I have again forgotten.
I have made many lasting friendships with KMC members over the years, but there was only ever one who shared my birthday. Thank you for your friendship, Pete. I’ll miss you.