The offical online newsletter of the Parish of St. Brelade, Jersey
Easter 2008
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Connetable's Message
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Nobody like Wally
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Nobody quite like Wally
Wally Battrick, by his friend Jurat Roy Bullen
A few weeks before he died Wally asked me if I would say a few words at his funeral. How typical of him to want to organise his own funeral.
How can I describe our friendship? Well, we argued a lot, that’s not surprising although of course he was always right but we also laughed a lot which is not surprising either.
He was born in 1931 into a family of fishermen and inevitably spent most of his life in and around boats. He went to St Brelade’s school and I wonder how many of you know he had a terrible stammer. It was due to his determination and strength of character that he finally overcame this affliction.
On leaving school at 15 he undertook an apprenticeship at the JEC after which he worked at the Airport as a maintenance electrician. It was during this time that he met Eve his future wife who was working at ATC. Wally and Eve married in 1958 and sad to say missed their Golden Wedding this year by just one month.
In 1960 he and his family left Jersey and went to Khartoum to work for Sudan Airlines as a Licensed Electrical Inspector.
The family returned to Jersey in 1965 and Wally worked for a while for British United Airways until that company went into liquidation. As there was no other aircraft work Wally joined his father and brother Jack in the boatyard and soon after the new boatyard was built on the north pier. It was at this time that I first met Wally, the brother Jack had often described as being a perfectionist. He explained that the immaculate Falcon sailing dinghy Seamew owned by Wally had been stripped and rebuilt and made as perfect and competitive as possible by his brother. This was a foretaste of things to come.
I soon learned that Wally was never satisfied with anything that in his view was not quite right. I’m told that he even mixed his own paint colours as apparently no manufacturer in the world was able to produce the colour that he wanted. Poor Eve and the children, how many jobs in the home were nearly finished only to be torn apart and done again because he was not satisfied? Boat owners often brought boats to the yard describing the work they wished to have done to be told by Wally that it could only be done his way.
He could be impatient and frustrated if things did not go the way he wanted, but balancing this was an infectious, wicked and sometimes outrageous sense of humour. On one occasion I had arranged to meet him at the London Boat Show. He greeted me with a big kiss. Goodness knows what others thought of us.
Wally loved children, and like his father before him installed a swing inside the back door of the workshop. During the day the door was always open for kids to come and go and use the swing. Wally did not like dogs, as basically they did not seem to like him! One once bit bit Wally on the right leg. When he remonstrated with the dog‘s owner he said that his dog had never bitten anyone before and did not believe it. The dog then proceeded to bite Wally on the left leg!
Wally had many interests and was fiercely competitive. He raced boats and gave no quarter, and in later years even went to Cowes in order to race on friends boats. When he and I were crewing on the then Bailiff Sir Peter Crill’s boat in the Gorey Regatta, I can assure you that Sir Peter’s rank did not mean that he could escape Wally’s wrath when his helming was not up to Wally’s standard. He was the Islands "Foils Champion" in 1955, he skied and undertook many parachute jumps over the bay. He was a member of the St Helier Lifeboat Crew from 1969 – 1989 serving for the most part with his brother Jack. On one night he missed the launch but not to be left out he, Derek Seymour and John Weedon took a powerful motor boat loaned by the owner for such a purpose and hared off to assist. Unfortunately they hit a rock and the boat sank. Wally was flung clear by the impact and all three managed to get into the dinghy to witness the eerie sight of the boat sink below with all lights still blazing.
He was an enthusiastic Freemason of long standing having joined in 1971 and over the years had taken on many rolls with distinction in the organisation. He was a talented amateur artist and was a self taught musician playing the mandolin and accordion. Wally’s acheivements are many: He formed the Marine Traders Association together with Mike Beard, and also a leading light in the St Aubin’s Traders Association. It is ironic that Land Reclamation at St Aubin, in the news at the moment, was an issue Wally had long campaigned for.
Wally had many friends. He could be very generous of his time when it came to helping people sometime even when they did not deserve his help or when it was not needed, and did not give up challenges even when it came to apprehending shoplifters younger and stronger than himself for which he earned an Outstanding Citizen award.
Kevin, Wally’s son, told me that in the last weeks when Wally had lost most of his strength there was a need to inspect the poles in a barn loft, Wally of course had to go up as well. After climbing a vertical ladder and being dragged up the last two rungs Kev then had to lower him back down on a rope.
This then was Wally, funny, awkward, argumentative, caring, competitive, talented - and my friend.
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