Memories come flooding back in waves for Peter
The recent Blackpool pier to pier swim brought good memories flooding back for Staining resident Peter Walker.
The 74-year-old’s son-in-law took part in this year’s event – which put Mr Walker in mind of his own triumphs in the swimming race more than 50 years ago.
It was in fact 55 years ago this week Mr Walker – then PC Walker – won the annual Blackpool Police Central Pier to North Pier swim, in a record time.
He swam the 1,000 yard distance in 13 minutes and 32 seconds, clipping one minute 18 seconds off the record set in 1961 by Police Constable Robert Alan Forrest.
As they approached the finish, Walker and Forrest were neck-and-neck, but Mr Walker pulled ahead to finish only three seconds in front of Forrest – who had also won the event the previous year.
Mr Walker had taken part in the swim he year before as a cadet and came second.
Then two years later, in 1965, Mr Walker was victorious again.
For the third time, it was a fighting finish between Mr Walker and PC Forrest – who by that time had won the event three times – but it was more than four minutes slower than Mr Walker’s record time of 13 minutes, 32 seconds.
After the race, Mr Walker told a Gazette reporter that the heavy swell that day had forced him to abandon his usual freestyle stroke and switch to breast stroke.
That year, the poor conditions meant 13 swimmers took part in the race and only 12 finished. PC Frank Williams got cramp during the race and had to be hauled into the accompanying launch.
Both times he won, Mr Walker was presented with his trophy by Mr Halstead Best.
Mr Walker – who still gets up at 6.30am each day to go swimming – also won the British High Board Diving Championships in 1965.
He had always been a keen swimmer and sportsman.
The former King Edward School pupil played for Fylde Rugby Club – the junior colts right up to the first team.
His blooming rugby career meant he had to leave the police force.
“I turned professional, playing rugby league, at Blackpool Borough. At that time I was in the police force and this was rugby league – you weren’t allowed to have two wages.
“So I left the police to play rugby. It wasn’t full-time but it was enough to live on.”
He later went on to become a social worker.
Mr Walker’s sporting prowess did not stop at rugby and swimming.
He also played football for North Shore Methodist Youth Club and squash at Blackpool Cricket Club.
In the late 50s, he won the Lancashire School Boys javelin.
These days, Mr Walker’s main sport of choice is crown green bowls.