“I remember things so clearly now that I’ve started thinking about them, even from when I was a boy, not even four years old.”
Frank Walker sorts through the food and clothing ration books his wife Jane had the foresight to bring from Scotland. During the war, remembers Frank, born in 1938, “I didn’t see a real egg until I was seven.” The garden, and Frank’s mother, kept the family going while his father was away at war. The garden also fed an 8-year-old evacuee and two Polish colonels in Scotland to prepare for the D-Day offensive. They taught Frank the Polish national anthem, which he sings, word for word, in his soft Scots burr.
Frank has a photograph and a program from the year his grandfather Galloway won the Rennes Race, from France to Scotland, with his pigeon, Jenny Wren. Galloway was at the pub when Jenny homed onto the pigeon loft. The bird’s ring had to be clocked to confirm the win, but “rubbish, rubbish, canna be a pigeon as early as this,” the old man told young Frank, delaying confirmation of the bird’s time by at least five minutes.
Prior to moving the family to Fife in Scotland, Frank’s grandfather Walker worked in the Belfast shipyards on a ship called the Titanic. Frank’s father was born in 1912, the year the doomed vessel was launched.
In Scotland, all the Walkers worked for the giant paper company, Tullis Russell: grandfather, uncle and grandson, each named Frank, and young Frank’s father (his name was Joe), all of them industrial plumbers.
In those days, men mastered more than one trade. Young Frank attended night school three times a week for four years learning welding, blacksmithing, pipe and gas fitting, air conditioning and plumbing. Another year of learning trades at day school gave Frank “enough papers to paper a house.” In all the five years, Frank never missed a day of work or of school.
Frank was a runner like his father, who won the Powderhall, Edinburgh’s annual New Year Sprint. Like his grandfather Galloway, who won a cap playing for Scotland, Frank was a footballer whose all-star team, the Star Hearts, won the Fife Cup.
Football has always been his passion. Frank considered playing professionally, and did play semi-pro in Australia, but in Scotland “I just had too many irons in the fire”: running, cars and motorcycles, tennis, badminton, field hockey, golf and fishing.
When Frank and his father founded the Leslie Angling Club, Frank learned to tie flies. Typically thorough, he studied fly formation and took a course in entomology to learn their habits. He earned enough from selling the flies he tied to purchase his first car, an Austin Healy.
At 27, Frank decided it was time to see more of the world. He was in the company parking lot discussing the sale of the Austin Healy with a co-worker when along came another co-worker, Jane Drybrugh. “I hear you’re leaving and going to Australia. Do you have anyone to carry your luggage?” Married in 1964, Jane and Frank lived in Australia until suntanning on Christmas day grew tiresome.
A voyage across the Pacific brought them to Vancouver. Frank worked at British Columbia Building Corporation for thirty years, rising to trades foreman and systems supervisor for 162 buildings ranging from New Westminster to Powell River, from BCIT to Oakalla Prison.
When not traveling, Frank is an artist. At home in North Vancouver, Frank crafted sculptures, bonsai, animals and boxes from leftover bits of metal. On the coffee table in his immaculate living room he lays out miniature tools and weapons alongside buckets and pitchers that range in size from tiny to miniscule.
Frank has his golf clubs and fly rods still, keeps in touch by computer with family in Scotland and lends a hand to help his friends. He’s now interested in researching family history, but football remains his passion. It was fulfilled in April with the 2013 Premier League win by his team, Manchester United.