Helen was born on 28 October 1953 to Stan and Doris Walker, a longed-for second child to complete their family – her brother, Richard, having been born some years before.
She was born in Ashton-under-Lyne and the family settled in Denton in east Manchester, before moving to Stoke Mandeville where Helen attended Aylesbury School for Girls, and was an outstanding pupil.
She loved Buckinghamshire so much – these were idyllic days – that her ashes are to be scattered there at Monument Hill.
There were many happy memories of her and her Mum attending cricket matches where her Dad and brother played. Breaks for tea were especially wonderful events (cucumber sandwiches and home-baking)- not so great was her Dad being called out LBW.
She recalls once going to a match in Slough and, if you’ve ever been to Slough, you will agree with John Betjeman’s poem “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough”
I seem to remember Helen recalling that the only thing of interest to see there was the crematorium!
For a Home Counties lass, it must have come as a total culture shock when, at the age of thirteen, her Dad got a job transfer to Scotland and they went to live in……..Cumbernauld. Oh the horror! Helen and her Mum barely spoke to him for months.
However, they moved quite soon afterwards to Dunblane, and Helen attended McLaren High School in Callander. There she made lifelong friends in Catriona, Ailsa and Lyn.
Because Helen sat Highers, the realistic choice was to go to University in Scotland – and she enrolled for an MA in History at St.Andrews.
And it was there, at the age of 17, that disaster struck: she met me!
We married on 4th August 1973 in the beautiful church of St.Peter and St Paul in Alpheton, Suffolk.
And so at the age of 19, she became a minister’s wife – not something, I’m sure she had in her life-plans.
Our first charge was in Doune, near Stirling. It was rather strange that every day on the way to school from Dunblane to Callander, the bus passed what was to be our Manse in Doune.
Helen got involved with the Young Wives Group as well as a spell taking the Beavers (the younger cub-scouts) in the village. One particular memory stands out – driving a mini-bus of them to Stirling to see the movie The Transformers. The noise, the din, the shouting – and the film was just as bad!
It was, of course, at this time, that our two fine boys were born – Matthew and Richard. The happiest time of her life. She said that she had never experienced true love until these two came along and she so proud of their achievements and so fond of their respective girls, Peggy and Polly.
The “icing on the cake” however was her “cheeky monkey” grandaughter, Cora.
After Doune we moved abroad to Trinidad for four years and what a life-enhancing experience that was. She and I loved it, and the friendliness of the people. The first time that our Church Officer, an elderly gentleman named Henry Cordiner, met her (and she was only about twenty-five at the time) he gazed at her in admiration, and said “Why, it’s a baby Ma’am!”
Back in Scotland, we lived in Caputh near Perth, and she loved nothing better than walking our then dogs along the banks of the River Tay which flowed past the bottom of our garden (beat that – says Sandy)
After a comparatively short time there, we moved to our favourite congregation at St.Michael’s Inveresk in Musselburgh and spent eleven wonderful years there amongst so many lovely and kindly friends.
With the family growing up, Helen returned to work – at Waterstones East End in Edinburgh where she combined work with her great passion of reading. I have never come across such a voracious reader.
At her place, at our dining room table here in Dumfries is a book rest which enabled her to eat and read at the same time. Both of us are avid readers and didn’t go out too much – meals out in restaurants were semi-torture for her, as she couldn’t read while having her meal.
She loved being a book-seller and was sorry to have to leave when we moved – yet again – to the Channel Islands for a short while.
And then here we were 13 years ago on the 12th June in Dumfries. Helen loved it here and particularly the surrounding countryside – Mabie Forest and Rockcliffe being special favourites. And here she found the job she’d always been looking for – as a museum assistant at Robert Burns’ House in the town. Ironically, Paul who is the curator, and Helen are both from Lancashire – which, I think caused quite a few laughs between them. Prior to this Helen had worked as a Home Carer for a coupleof stints, and found great fulfillment in helping the elderly and disabled.
She was a talented lady. She loved gardening, craftwork, DIY (Helen was the electrician and plumber and house-decorator in the family). She also tried to keep Sandy from being so feckless over the almost 39 years that they were married – without much success (you know how an eccentric is reluctant to do even the most ordinary of chores – although she put it down to my being “just plain idle”)
And, of course, she loved dogs and particularly her Jack Russell Terriers – Daisy who is the oldest and who snuggled up to her in bed at home following major surgery seven and a half years ago; Tom and their daughter Flora, all of whom are with us – and are as loud as ever, though somewhat subdued these last few days.
And, let’s not forget the enjoyable years she spent working as a volunteer in the Canine Rescue Charity Shop, where most of the time was spent, I gather, gossiping with her co-worker, Jim.
Let’s close with these words – written in a sympathy card sent to me from one of the Museum staff: She writes: “She was a lovely, clever, funny lady and so compassionate too”
to which we say “Amen!”
(Helen died of secondary cancer at 12.27 a.m. on Saturday, 16 June 2012, aged 58)