Amazing life story captured in print

RESPECTED: Dr Stanley Walker and his late devoted wife Kathleen
RESPECTED: Dr Stanley Walker and his late devoted wife Kathleen

A BURNLEY old boy and distinguished scholar who emigrated to Canada in 1967 has written a book about his fascinating life – from the rarified halls of English universities to the untamed wilds of Ontario.

Dr Stanley Walker, who left Coal Clough School to become a book binder in 1938, subsequently carved out an eminent career in the field of chemistry.

Despite coming from humble origins, Dr Walker spent five years at Oxford University where he gained a BA, an MA and a doctorate in philosophy.

A Burnley Express article of 1953 highlighted his achievements and cited him as an example to young people in Burnley.

He went on to lecture at De Montfort University and the University of Aston in Birmingham.

But it was his emigration with devoted wife Kathleen to the unspoilt beauty of Thunder Bay, Ontario, that provided the greatest inspiration for Dr Walker’s book “A Canadian Venture”.

Kathleen, who died shortly before the book was completed, had taught at Burnley Grammar School and Heasandford High School. An accomplished teacher in her own right, she was also an English examiner for the northern universities.

Dr Walker said: “The book is an account of our family, travel and our reaction to vastly different situations from what we had experienced in England.

“The move from Birmingham to Thunder Bay brought about vast changes in our way of life – wilder scenery replaced the charms of Pendle Hill and the Shakespearean countryside in Warwickshire.”

Dr Walker moved to Canada to become professor and chairman of the chemistry department at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay where he forged an idyllic life with Kathleen and their natural neighbours in the wild.

“We built a chalet facing the Sibley Peninsula on the edge of Lake Superior. We had a variety of birds such as woodpeckers, ospreys and the occasional bald eagle visit the chalet. Loons were frequent visitors, even 20 or more fishing together exchanging haunting calls while beavers frequently appeared near dusk and would take one of our saplings into the water and strip it bare.

“A fox came around late in the evenings and we would feed it on the deck. At weekends, we would slip over to Sibley Peninsula where bears and moose were a familiar sight.

“Wolves, however, were rarer although in spring they became apparent trotting along the road or even crossing as a small pack. It was a paradise of protected wildlife.”

Dr Walker’s book, which contains 36 stunning photographs and accompanying text, also explores the plight of the native Indians in the area.

He added: “For me the book is a treasured memory of Kathleen, and its creation brought back the memories we had shared over the past 45 years.”