The Amazingly Long Life of a Remarkable Lady

Mrs Mollie Walker MBE
5th February 1909 – 22nd January 2022

Mrs Walker was born in Cadoxton, near Cardiff, five months before the pioneering French aviator, Louis Bleriot, flew across the English Channel. In her 90s, she hurtled across the sky in Concorde at twice the speed of sound. Such was the span of her amazing life. One of her earliest memories was a party given for officers about to embark for France at the beginning of World War I. She recalled riding through the gas-lit streets of Cardiff in a Hansom cab.

Living in London during the war, she witnessed bombing by the giant Zeppelin airships. Immediately after the end of hostilities she went with her parents to France where she attended school, as her father, an engineering colonel, was responsible for clearing munitions from the battlefield. Back in England, constantly moving house as the army moved her father about, she became very self-reliant.

In 1923 her father left the forces and the family settled in Peppard; there, for her 17th birthday, she was given a brand-new Austin 7. Down to the Post Office for a licence, a couple of lessons from the handyman/gardener, and she was off on a driving career that lasted 86 years until she reluctantly gave up driving at the age of 103. She was to drive every kind of vehicle from a Rolls Royce to a three-ton truck.

Little Mollie n 1912

Mrs Walker – photographed
in November 2018

Mrs Walker in her later years

Mrs Walker taught countless people to drive, often hopeless cases who had failed more than once, and she got them through their test. She was much in demand, teaching the art of double de-clutching! She took her test to become a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists in an aged Bentley.

Married in 1931 to John Walker, Mollie was of an age when it was disrespectful to address your elders, or anyone you did not know well, by their first name so she was always Mrs Walker to almost all who knew her. Her daughter, Sheila, and son, Graham, were brought up in Kingwood at the house their parents built in 1937 and where she remained living until her death just 14 days before her 113th birthday. At the time she was the oldest person in the UK.

When war came again, Mrs Walker volunteered for the WVS (Women’s Voluntary
Service) later to become the WRVS and helped at the American Army Hospital on Kingwood Common where wounded German prisoners of war were cared for. She remembers seeing German officers in full uniform walking across the common!

After the war in 1952, the hospital buildings, known as Kingwood Camp, were taken over by Henley Rural District Council. Local and some Polish people were given temporary housing there. Hearing that the Council planned to build a council housing estate on the common Mrs Walker, along with a friend, formed the Friends of Kingwood Common. Mrs Walker sat John Hay, the then local Conservative MP, down with a cup of coffee and advised him that the Friends of Kingwood Common were more or less the local Conservative Association and he needed to consider his best interests and support them! The Friends of Kingwood Common were successful and the terms of the
Nettlebed and District Commons (Preservation) Act, which banned building on common land, was upheld. Hence no building on common land throughout the country is permitted.

Next, Mrs Walker joined the Food Flying Squad, taking convoys of lorries and vans with urgent supplies to disaster areas. She was awarded her MBE for services to the Civil Defence which also involved teaching the ladies of the WRVS to drive heavy vehicles.

From 1954 to 1979 Mrs Walker was a very active member of Peppard Parish Council.

Widowed in 1991, Mrs Walker still had 30 years ahead of her and was often away in her trusty camper van, frequently in the Wye Valley, an area that was special to her. She enjoyed snooker and Grand Prix racing on TV; she loved her Border Collie dogs and would walk for miles with them up until a few years ago.

I am grateful to Mrs Walker’s daughter, Sheila, and son, Graham, for providing me with information about their mother for this tribute.

Sue Nickson