MICHAEL Walker OBE, timber merchant, former vice-chairman of NHS Lothian and honorary consul for Finland, has died, aged 76.
Michael’s great-grandfather founded James Walker Ltd in Banff, Aberdeenshire. Then it moved to Inverness and, early in the last century, it was relocated to Leith. The Walker family moved south to live in Edinburgh.
Michael was born in Edinburgh on New Year’s Day 1936. He was educated first at the Edinburgh Academy and later at Loretto. After National Service, he learned about the timber trade in Sweden, a country which had a great influence on his life.
He had met Margaretha, who was Swedish, in Scotland, and they were married in Stockholm in October 1961. And it was in Sweden that he was introduced to timber-frame housing, which in time was to revolutionise his business and make James Walker one of the most profitable family-owned companies in Scotland.
Michael became a leading figure in the timber trade and construction industry and made a significant contribution to timber research and development.
He became well known for wearing a carnation in his lapel – a trademark he developed in an apparently successful attempt to be remembered by potential customers.
He held directorships in a variety of companies in the trade and was president of the Timber Trade Association.
He also served as chairman of the Western General Hospital NHS Trust from 1994 until 1998 and later as vice-chairman of NHS Lothian.
He was the honorary consul for Finland, a director of the Edinburgh Trustee Saving Bank, Master of the Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh and chaired the board of governors of Stewart’s Melville College.
In the 2005, new year’s honours list, he was awarded an OBE for services to the NHS and to the community in Edinburgh. He also received an honorary degree from Napier University.
Michael was elected a member of the High Constables and Guard of Honour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and became the moderator, an office his father had held.
By the time he became moderator, he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, but he undertook the duties with dignity and efficiency and presided over the annual dinner at the palace with style and presence.
Despite deterioration of his health, and spells in hospital, he carried on as chairman of the business, now based in Bo’ness, and with his many commitments. At the time of his death, he was busy with a history of the company, which it is hoped others will complete.
He is survived by Margaretha, daughter Amanda, son Benzie, and four grandchildren.