Heed the words of a wise elderly man – Harry Leslie Smith

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/14/1939-second-world-war-fascist-thundering-approach-hitler

The Guardian has this opinion piece on its web site – see link above

Some 20 odd years ago I was given the privilege of getting to know a chap who was involved in the Second World War. Our close friendship sadly ended earlier this year when he died (well into his 90’s) but I like to think that I learned a great deal from listening to Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker about his wartime RAF experiences.

The piece above by Harry Leslie Smith deserves a wide audience because he can see what many of us may be ignoring i.e. that international leaders like Trump and Kim Jong-un (and others) may well be pushing us all towards another war.

My thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

St. Lukes Church (the bombed out church) – Liverpool

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/seven-things-you-probably-dont-13028821

The Liverpool Echo has the story on it web site – see link above

There’s been a lot of talk in recent times about how to give this iconic symbol of Liverpool in the Blitz a sustainable future. On a personal level though I can’t escape the story of what happened on the night the incendiary bomb hit St. Lukes and the fact that I had the privilege to talk with a person who was fire watching that night and saw it happen. My previous posting from 2010 refers:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2010/11/16/uncle-albert-he-saw-the-bombing-of-liverpool-from-a-birds-eye-view-point/

Sadly ‘Uncle Albert’ died earlier this year but whenever I see St. Lukes or hear of it I think of that brave young chap (who became one of my best mates in his mid 70’s until he passed away aged 95) standing atop George Henry Lees fire watching as Liverpool was being destroyed all around him

A great send off for Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker

Only six days after the funeral of former Maghull and Sefton Councillor Jim Byrne we had another one this time for Charles ‘Uncle Albert’ Walker, also a former Maghull Town Councillor, today.

punch-bowl-3

This was my personal tribute to Charles which his family asked me to contribute to his funeral service.

Uncle Albert

I first met Uncle Albert, then known of course as Charles Walker, when he was in his early 70’s.

He came over as a really nice chap but little did I know how our friendship would develop over the next 20+ years and that he would become a very close chum indeed.

I give you a handful of personal insights into Uncle Albert

Singing RAF songs! – It happened out of the blue during a car journey from Maghull to the Littleborough & Saddleworth Parliamentary by-election where Uncle Albert, Andrew Beattie Andrew Blackburn and myself were off to deliver leaflets. The nice gentleman sharing the back seat of the car with one of the Andrews just started to sing what I will call a risqué song of the kind those acquainted with rugby songs would understand. We knew then that we had a right one with us!

Fire watching on top of George Henry Lees during the Liverpool Blitz – Yes Charles did that and he saw incendiary bombs hitting the city all around him. One night he was at his lofty dangerous post and saw the incendiary fall and hit St Luke’s Church. Yet when he told us about it he seemed to have no comprehension of the extreme danger he had been in. To him it was his job as an employee of George Henry Lees to try to put out any fires. A brave man indeed.

Pitch and Put – He had played on the pitch and put course at Harrison Drive, New Brighton many times, especially before the war, and it showed. Neither of the Andrews nor I could beat him despite around a dozen attempts to do so on our days out with Uncle Albert around this childhood stamping ground of The Wirral.

East Lancashire Railway – Uncle Albert went with us to this persevered railway a number of times over the years and he loved it. What with steam locomotives, old fashioned carriages and travelling on them with his mates. But what he seemed to like best was the buffet facility on Bury Bolton Street Station where he would climb into an all day breakfast whilst watching steam trains pass by.

Mushroom Omelettes? – By now uncle Albert had been ‘adopted’ by both the Robertson and Blackburn families and Sheila Robertson wanted to take Charles (she always called him Charles) out for a meal. And what a hit it was as he loved the mushroom omelettes at the Stanley Arms in Aughton. Unsurprisingly Sheila kept taking him back there and he kept enjoying them.

Other visits – we took Charles to the RAF Cosford museum a couple of times, to Crich Tramway Museum, to Birkenhead Tramway Preservation Society and to the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington. He loved these trips out and was great company. At Elvington we turned around and he had disappeared only to be found later deep in conversation with another elderly ex-RAF chap talking about their life and times in the Royal Air Force. In Birkenhead he rode a Wallasey tram like those that ran in his youth and he was delighted.

And what of his times as a Maghull Town Councillor? Japanese Knotweed was one of his big campaigns. Trouble is it is still there in Foxhouse Lane despite him hounding Network Rail to eradicate it.

The potholed surface of Maghull Station car park was another, thankfully it’s now in good nick.

And what about Mrs Bradley’s Passage? It’s a short footpath that joins Poverty Lane and Summerhill Drive and was a littered and potholed mess at the time. Mrs Bradley lived next to it and she asked Charles to get Sefton Council to tidy it up regularly. In turn he gave Sefton Council grief to the extent that even the dead hand of a local authority could take it no longer and they tidied it up. But he was not satisfied and said only recently that the beggars had still not resurfaced it as they promised him they would do some 8 or 9 years ago!

He was Vice Chair of the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee for quite a number of years. Sheila Nelson chaired the committee and he enjoyed working with her. We used to joke with him that Sheila kept him in line. I think he looked upon her as his Station Commander!

To the two Andrews and I he was Uncle Albert (after the Only Fools & Horses character of course) to many others he was Charles. To the ladies he was a lovely old gentleman; to us he was a cheeky chap who was one of the boys. He may have been 35+ years older than us but he was our mate and we will miss him terribly.

Goodbye Uncle Albert

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.

Charles and I at his 91st Birthday Party in the Punch Bowl Pub, Sefton Village

Charles and I at his 91st Birthday Party in the Punch Bowl Pub, Sefton Village

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!

Charles completing a form to protest about building on Maghull's Green Belt.

Charles completing a form to protest about building on Maghull’s Green Belt.

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 Walker with his Grandfather in Vale Park Wallasey-1923or4.

Charles Walker with his Grandfather in Vale Park Wallasey-1923or4.

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.

Charles Shaking hands with Wing Commander Greg Smith at RAF Gibraltar in 2013

Charles Shaking hands with Wing Commander Greg Smith at RAF Gibraltar in 2013

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.

Phil the excellent British Gas Engineer

Full marks to British Gas engineer Phil.

He was at Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker’s bungalow in Maghull today fixing a bust central heating pump when Charles had a fall. He helped 95 year old Charles up, made him a hot drink, ensured relatives were informed and waited for Sheila and I to arrive before he left. He then rang back a couple of hours later to check that Charles was OK.

What a lovely young man who did more than his bit to help out; British Gas you can rightly be proud of Phil. And yes Uncle Albert is OK apart from the odd bruise.

Jim Byrne RIP

Jim with former local councillor Sylvia Mainey at the site of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club prior to Lydiate Village Centre being built.

Jim with former local councillor Sylvia Mainey at the site of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club prior to Lydiate Village Centre being built.

A am sad to have to report that former Maghull councillor Jim Byrne died on 31st December.

Jim had been a local councillor on Maghull Town Council, Sefton Borough Council and Lydiate Parish Council over many, many years. Indeed, he was first elected to Maghull Town Council in the early 1960 if memory serves.

Jim and I sharing a moment together.

Jim and I sharing a moment together.

Jim was fun to be around as he would often have some amusing remark to make about any situation. I recall his legendary old Ford Cortina car. Well put it this way it was old, probably one of the first off the production line, but he kept it going for years. Andrew Blackburn, Robbie Fenton and I thought he had bricks in it for suspension as the ride across The Moss to Southport for Sefton Council meetings was like a fairground ride!

Jim at the then derelict site of the former Albany Cinema, where Lidl is now of course.

Jim at the then derelict site of the former Albany Cinema, where Lidl is now of course.

I understand he had been a county level table tennis player in his younger days. Later in life he would really enjoy the quizzes that used to be held at Maghull Town Hall each Wednesday night where he could often be found deep in conversation with Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker about their time doing National Service. Yes, neither of them were actually taking a great deal of notice of the actual quiz, that was left to Andrew Beattie, Andrew Blackburn, myself and whomever else had turned out for our ‘Nutters’ quiz team.

Jim was a Maghull Town Council member when Maghull Town Hall was planned for and built and if you ever pop in there look out for the photo of the opening of the building in the foyer as Jim is on it.

He was also a member of Lydiate Parish Council when the successful campaign was launched to build what is now Lydiate Village Centre on Lambshear Lane, on the site of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club. And he was a member of both Maghull Town and Sefton Borough Councils as we fought to get Meadows Leisure Centre & Library built by Sefton Council.

One part of the work of local councils that Jim loved was dealing with planning applications and he rose to become the Chairman of Sefton Council’s Planning Committee. I think he enjoyed that more than anything.

There can be few people indeed who have been involved in the work of local councils in this area from the 1960’s to early 2000’s who will not have known Jim. I think it is fair to say that I have never come across anyone who did not like Jim.

He often said that he was no politician and in many ways never a truer word has been spoken as Jim just liked doing things for the community. From my perspective it is nice to celebrate the life of a really nice chap who did his bit for his community.

Jim leaves behind a loving family whom he would constantly chatter about when in company. He clearly thought a lot of them and them of him.