Wednesday, 7 December 2016

My column in this week's Visiter

I have had a busy and varied week honouring people who served in WW2, handing out prizes to students and launching the Mayor’s Toy Appeal.

Captain Johnny Walker was not always the ‘top brass’s’ favourite man. He broke with received naval wisdom to develop new ways of tackling the U-Boat menace in WW2 and protected the convoys that brought a besieged Britain essential supplies in the darkest days of the war. From the Gladstone Dock in Bootle he set out to hunt down and destroy the enemy’s submarines and he was the most of successful naval commander. Bootle Town Hall received from Captain Walker many of the most important artefacts from the Battle of the Atlantic. Every year the Mayor hosts a service to honour his memory. In the evening the University Royal Navy Unit (URNU) abandons tradition and does not hold a Trafalgar Night celebration but instead holds a mess dinner to honour the memory of Captain Johnny Walker. I was privileged to attend that event and to hear the students tell the story of Walker’s heroic efforts.

The second war hero I had the opportunity to honouring was Waterloo resident John Shankland to whom the French Government wanted to give their highest medal the Legion d’Honneur for his part in the liberation of Europe.

Waterloo lost one of its great characters and indefatigable campaigners with the death of local historian Brenda Murray. It was her dream to erect a monument to the four time Prime Minister William Gladstone in Seaforth where he had lived. She achieved that objective and turned her attention to new projects to preserve the history of her home town. Days before her death she was lobbying me to track down important items relating to Waterloo’s past. She will be greatly missed.

Brenda was the oldest ‘old girl’ of what is today Sacred Heart College and I was there on Monday as their guest at their presentation evening. This is one of our most successful schools not just because of its excellent academic achievements but also because of the breadth of the opportunities it offers its students. It lives up to its motto of ‘caring and achieving excellence in a Christian community’.

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