Death of well-known Montrose woman

Elizabeth Walker is pictured with her daughters Kirsten (left) and Fiona (right) at the opening night of the Syd Walker Retrospective exhibition in Montrose Museum last month.
Elizabeth Walker is pictured with her daughters Kirsten (left) and Fiona (right) at the opening night of the Syd Walker Retrospective exhibition in Montrose Museum last month.

Former Montrose businesswoman and art therapist Elizabeth Walker has died at the age of 87.

Born in Montrose, she grew up living above her father, Bert Ritchie’s ironmongery business in Castle Street and enjoyed helping her parents in the shop during World War Two, when staff were scarce.

After various jobs in Scotland and England, Elizabeth attended Hillcroft College in Surbiton and, through a friend, met Birmingham artist, Syd Walker.

They were married in St George’s Church, Montrose, on Christmas Day in 1954.

In 1956 they moved to Montrose and the following year opened the Angus Pottery, a shop in Bridge Street, with nearby pottery and gallery.

Together, they made a great team, with Elizabeth not only running the business side of things but learning how to fettle and glaze pots, as well as collaborating with Syd on developing new pottery products.

When an articulated lorry jack-knifed into the shop and destroyed it in 1968, the couple turned disaster into opportunity by developing a former newsagents shop beside the Ballhouse into a craft shop and coffee house.

Elizabeth set herself the challenge of filling the shelves with unusual hand-crafted gifts from around the world and the shop was so busy in the summer that soon a second cash desk had to be opened to cope with the queues of customers.

In 1972, Elizabeth and Syd bought an old coach house in the Queen’s Close which they converted into The Stables Art Centre, a three storey gallery, pottery and studio, which ran for more than 30 years.

Where Syd created with clay and paint, Elizabeth’s artistic talents lay in fabrics and embroidery and her framed collages were often for sale in the gallery or in Scottish art exhibitions.

These talents and her love of working with others led to her studying art therapy and working at Sunnyside Royal Hospital for 15 years, followed by consultancy at Dundee University and her own groups in Montrose.

A born storyteller, Elizabeth was a frequent visitor to local primary schools, sharing her memories of growing up during the war.

She also enjoyed writing short stories and poems, several of which were published in newsletters and websites, including the Scottish Book Trust, and some of her work is also on display at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.

In 2014, Elizabeth’s wartime stories were taken to the Edinburgh Fringe, when she worked with her daughter, Fiona, on ‘Taking Aim’, a performance poem about Elizabeth’s father being in a World War One firing squad.

A great sadness in Elizabeth’s life was when her friend, 22-year-old Lieutenant John McDonald was killed in the Malayan Conflict in 1951, and in 1992 she was instrumental in having his name added to Montrose War Memorial.

For many years Elizabeth created and choreographed the UV sequences in Montrose Panto Group productions, and she enjoyed being props mistress in many amateur productions in Montrose Town Hall.

Despite failing health, Elizabeth continued to enjoy life with her family and greatly appreciated time spent at the Adam Centre.

In recent months, her memories and recollections proved invaluable for her daughters, Fiona and Kirsten, as they curated the Syd Walker Retrospective exhibition, which is now on display at Montrose Museum, and she was delighted to be able to attend the opening.

Elizabeth is survived by her daughters, five grandsons and three great-grandchildren.

Elizabeth Walker died in Montrose Royal Infirmary on Monday (December 5).

Her funeral will take place at Old and St Andrew’s Church, Montrose, at 12.30pm on Tuesday, December 13.