I have mentioned Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker many times on this blog site even though he was not my Uncle nor was his name Albert. He was though a close personal friend over the past 20 years+ and sadly he died this morning at the age of 95.
Yes he was old, he had been admitted into hospital yesterday and he was physically frail but his death came as a huge shock bearing in mind Sheila and I had visited him yesterday afternoon and had been laughing and joking with him up until 5pm. It seems that pneumonia crept up and took him very quickly despite the great care he got in Aintree Hospital A&E and later on Ward 1.
I first came across him when at the age of 74 he decided to get involved in Liberal politics. He soon got himself elected to Maghull Town Council and even had a lady offer to marry him when he was out canvassing in his first election! He served as a Town Councillor until he was 90!
He got his ‘Uncle Albert’ nickname because he would often tell stories about his days in the RAF during WW2 when he had been an aircraft electrician working in the UK, Gibraltar and in Italy. The Only Fools and Horses character seemed to fit Charles so well that the name stuck and he even changed his name badge at one conference we attended to read ‘Uncle Albert’ rather than Charles Walker. And that kind of summed Charles up in that he was game for a laugh about anything.
He was very fit until he reached his mid 80’s and would regularly be out delivering Lib Dem leaflets with a group of us called ‘The Nutters’; we had a quiz team of the same name as well. The core members were Uncle Albert, Andrew Blackburn, Andrew Beattie (sadly now passed on as well) and myself.
I recall so well the visits we had to the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election not least because uncle Albert would start to sing RAF songs in the car. If you know what rugby songs are like you have got my drift!
Charles was born in Egremont on the Wirral and he lived there until he married Margaret when they moved first to Bootle and then in 1960 to Maghull. His Poverty Lane bungalow had been his home since the day it was built.
He worked at George Henry Lees in Liverpool up until he was called up in WW2 and he was in the Home Guard as a lad. Yes, he got called ‘Private Pike’ as well when we were teasing him. His stories of fire watching on top of GHL’s during the Liverpool Blitz were astonishing to us as he seemed to have little concern about the danger he had been in. And he saw St. Lukes Church go up in flames from that dangerous vantage point too.
He clearly loved his time in the RAF and could still rattle off a long list of aircraft he had worked on, how he had met and spoken to Field Marshal Montgomery (whose brother was a Vicar in Wallasey at the time who Charles knew) and been close to Winston Churchill.
After the war he worked in both the sugar and metal plating trades in Liverpool and he only retired when in his 70’s. He was also a regular attender at Goodison Park as an Everton supporter until the early 1970’s. Only last weekend we were exchanging texts as both Everton and my club (Mansfield Town) had matches on.
He had a life-long interest in aircraft, railways and ships so being a railway buff myself Charles and I got on very well, often exchanging books, videos and magazines with each other.
In recent years Charles suffered mobility problems but until about 3 months ago he was regularly getting a taxi to The Square in Maghull to visit shops there. He was well known and liked at Waterfields, Home Bargains, Superdrug and TSB.
His wife was taken into care in 2013 because of dementia but later that year his daughter Carole and son-in-law Phil took him on a cruise which took in Gibraltar where he had been stationed for around 3 years during his national service. What’s more they had arranged for him to visit RAF Gibraltar and meet the Station Commander. His grandson also took him, only 3 months ago, to the RAF Museum at Cosford where he had been twice before with Andrew and I. Of course he loved all these outings.
Particularly since 2013 Sheila, Andrew and I had taken Charles under our wing and helped him as much as we could alongside his loving family. Indeed, Charles was considered to be a part of our family and indeed Andrew’s. Wednesday night would always be beer and chips night at Uncle Albert’s for Andrew and I (and Jen would pop along as well sometimes). He then decided to name his bungalow ‘Poverty Pub’.
A trip out to the Stanley Arms was a favourite of his and Sheila made sure he went about once a month. He loved their omelette and chips.
Charles will have known countless people in Maghull during his 66 years living there and he treated virtually everyone he met as though they were his friends. A kind generous man indeed who rarely had a bad word to say about anyone. I so recall after the Brexit vote how upset he was about Polish people being told to get out of the UK by ignorant people. To Charles the Poles were WW2 heroes and he was disgusted at the way some had been spoken to since June 2016.
I have lost a close personal friend who enriched my life immeasurably and I will miss him terribly.