Family Secrets

'There is so much wisdom locked up in the stories women don’t tell' (Elaine Welteroth),

but sometimes, just sometimes, they leave a trace for us to follow, and when we unearth the truth it opens our hearts in reverent wonder..

…By the time Mary met him, Flight Lieutenant James Scott Walker already had an enviable record as a fighter pilot and been decorated with a DFC, and an even more distinguished Bar. More impressively, he had been selected, after volunteering, for training as one of the elite Pathfinder pilots to fly Mosquitoes over Germany.

Mary was impressed - rank and status never failed to impress her - but when she found out that he came from South America, she was intrigued. Eagerly she drank in his tales of his life in Argentina. To the girl whose sheltered life had centred around Ryecroft and complacent, rural England, it sounded exhilarating and exciting. She thrilled when she thought of free running horses, and of galloping over the big, open spaces, the pampa that Jim had described. There was something immensely seductive in the idea of breaking out of the stifling propriety of time-honoured convention and tradition, just as Jim’s parents had done before he was born...’

This is an excerpt from the biography that I was commissioned to ghost write that led me (and Angela Walker, who commissioned the book) into realms that we never imagined we would be entering - from 19th century shoe manufacture in Stafford to rubber plantations in Malaysia; into pre-war rural England in the1930s and the confusion of a young woman grappling with her moral scruples in a changing, wartime world; to a pilot’s feats in wartime skies over Germany, and his shocking experiences in the wasted land that was Germany after the war…and much, much more.

It took us also to places we did know we would be going - the wide plains of Argentina and the car rally circuits of Scotland in the 1960s - but even there we found ourselves to be excavators of new information.

It all began with a sheaf of old letters and Argentinian ID documents found in a trunk in the attic on the day of the old lady’s funeral. Mary Walker (nee Peach) had played a big role in Angela’s life for two reasons. On the one hand she had consistently championed her grand-daughter, who’d always felt that Mary was the one person who truly understood her. On the other hand, Mary, who had been a quite exceptional woman well ahead of her time in so many ways, was also an exemplary role model for the young woman.

The book was to be tribute to the grandmother who had been such a huge influence in her life. What neither Angela nor I could know at the outset of this project was how unveiling this story would lead us through secret realms that had lain hidden for generations, and that had cast a long and dark shadow for decades. It is no exaggeration to say that the revelations have been healing and life changing.

Working on it was exciting and heart rending, as well as entertaining and educational. Apart from that, I also discovered that I do have some imaginative ability, which I have always thought I lacked because, for all that this story has its origins in real events and fact, it also required some inventiveness to make it a read that you didn’t want to put down.

It was an honour to be entrusted with such an intimate task, and it is immensely gratifying to be told that the people who knew Mary well feel that I have captured her well. It is also satisfying when I am told that the editor of the book couldn’t stop reading, and that it had inspired her to investigate her own family history.

The book is currently only available as a Kindle Book, for a mere £2.99. If you don’t have a Kindle to read it on, it turns out you can download a Kindle App from Amazon. I hope that, one day, it will also be available as a proper book. In the meantime you will find it here:

I am sure that reading this book will broaden horizons, just as it did mine, and I trust that you will enjoy it, just as so many have already done.

Until the next time, Mary-Lynne

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