Last surviving Provost of Peebles passes away: Alexander William Walker MBE, 1924-2013

Although the familiar face of Alex Walker has been missing from Peebles High Street for some time due to ill-health and the constraints of his advancing years, his own personal love for, and total commitment to, his beloved home town never waned, writes Kenny Howitt.

To simply say that Alex Walker was ‘A Proud Man O’ Peebles’ – although perfectly true – would nevertheless be a major understatement.

Born at Cross Street in the heart of the town and living in the town his entire life, there is little doubt that Alex’s own heart was very much in the town and community he loved so much.

Peebles meant everything to Alex Walker, who freely admitted himself that he was unashamedly: “a self-confessed parochial person and that the town was, and always would be, his whole life.” Little wonder, given such pride and passion that he went on to become Provost of Peebles and, in fact, was destined to be the last surviving Provost of the town.

The total commitment of Alex Walker to Peebles can only be fully recognised and admired when considering his full record of service to ‘The Auld Burgh Toon’, as he so fondly called it himself so many times.

An elected councillor with the old Peebles Town Council from 1960-1975, where he held every office imaginable from Burgh Treasurer to Provost, Alex always freely admitted that he was never one to avoid controversy and argument – if he felt strongly enough about difficult issues.

For example, he once waged a fierce, resolute, and totally determined defence against a suggestion made that Tweeddale District Council should be merged with the larger Ettrick and Lauderdale District Council to make up a new District of Ettrick, Lauderdale and Tweeddale.

Alex’s pride and total determination won the day and Tweeddale District Council retained its autonomy and independence as a local government unit in its own right at that time.

Alex’s determination also saw him as the driving force behind many other local developments – among them being the lowering of Dalatho Footbridge; the building of the new swimming pool on the former mill site where it still is; the coming to Peebles and location of the former ‘Fidelitone’ stylus-manufacturing factory – on the Dovecot site, now occupied by Tesco’s supermarket – which in its heyday in the 1970’s employed 276 people; the housing development at Cuddyside, part of which still proudly bears the name ‘Provost Walker Court’. 
An only son – Alex’s father was a highly-skilled confectioner renowned in Peebles for his magnificent and highly decorative ‘work of art’ cakes – Alex served as a Flight Sergeant in the RAF from 1943-46, seeing service in the Far East.

His first job in ‘civvy street’ thereafter being an apprentice yarnstore-man at March Street Mills, before going on to work at the Sonido Factory which took over from Fidelitone, where he remained until his retiral in 1988.

Alex Walker’s list of general community involvement activities in Peebles over the years are almost too many to mention. An honorary president of Peebles YMCA, long-standing member – and later vice-president – of Peebles Golf Club, all are a further reflection of his total involvement in the local community of his hometown.

He was an honorary member and ex-president of Peebles Callants Club, twice became Dean of The Guildry Corporation of Peebles (firstly elected by his fellow Town Councillors and then again being later elected by his Guildry brethren).

He was also a long-serving chairman of Tweeddale Sports Council.

In his younger days, Alex was a stalwart football player with the local YMCA, also playing with the Scottish Air Training Corps team that won the Edinburgh District League during the war years.

Little wonder, therefore, that Alex Walker’s community service record was recognised firstly by his hometown when he was made Warden of Neidpath in 1971, a local honour of which he was extremely proud, and later in a wider more national way when he was awarded the MBE for his services to the community. He was a local Magistrate and Honorary Sheriff-substitute, frequently sitting on the bench at local court sessions.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that Alex Walker dedicated a huge part of his life in so many ways, over a long number of years, to the town and community he loved so much. The evidence of that dedication can still be seen around the town of Peebles. In the words of the Corries’ National Anthem, Flower of Scotland – ‘when will we see his likes again?’ His passing undoubtedly leaves a huge hole in the community of Peebles.

Alex is survived by his wife Dorothy and the thoughts and condolences of so many friends and acquaintances from within Peebles and beyond are with her at this very sad time.