Obituaries: Patric Walker

From his bedroom window in the Greek village of Lindos, Patric Walker could see the Temple of Athene on the Acropolis of Rhodes. It was a fitting view for the man hailed as the world's greatest astrologer, whose columns have been essential reading for the past 30 years for millions of devoted followers in almost every country of the globe.

Born on 25 September 1931 in Hackensack, New Jersey, Walker was the third of four children of Yorkshire parents who had emigrated in the 1920s. The family returned to Whitby when Walker was four but his childhood was scarred by the death of his mother when he was seven, an event which convinced him that "nothing could ever happen to me in life that would be greater than that loss."

He attended a private Catholic school, was posted to India and Pakistan with the RAF during national service and moved to London to learn accountancy in the late 1950s. Before discovering astrology he attempted various other careers including launching a club in London and becoming a minor property developer.

His path to astrological enlightenment began in 1960 when he happened, at an elegant London dinner party, to sit next to an American astrologer, Helene Hoskins, later to become the legendary "Celeste" at Harpers and Queen. She chose him to be her sole disciple and, over the next six years, taught him everything she knew about astrology.

When the avant-garde glossy magazine Nova, wanted an astrologer when it was launched in the mid-1960s Hoskins suggested Walker. She was later to confide to a mutual acquaintance, "I knew Patric would be good, but not this good." He went on to take over the Celeste column in 1974, then worked for the Mirror magazine before moving on in 1976 to Associated Newspapers, where he wrote for the Evening Standard and the Mail on Sunday.

He discovered Lindos on a brief visit to the island of Rhodes in 1979, fell in love with it on sight and knew "instantly that it was where I wanted to live for the rest of my life". His days started at 5.30am, when he would begin writing his columns by hand under the orange tree in the cobbled courtyard of his picturesque but modest rented villa. He always denied being in possession of any special cosmic privileges. However, his perceptive and intuitive skills as an interpreter of the astrological equations meant that he was unrivalled in the world of media astrology.

Shrugging off the psychic powers which many believed him to possess, he once told me: "Even if one has them, I don't think it's something one should be aware of. Whatever these personal gifts are, they are not to be exploited or boasted about.

"If you honestly believe that your existence on this planet is valid and that you are born at a given moment in time, then astrology seems to me to be a sort of accurate indicator - not of how your life is planned out for you but of the framework within which you are born which encompasses your parents, their background, what you're likely to inherit in the way of ideals, principles and knowledge, all the things that make a human being."

He was never able to draw up his own horoscope, being unaware of his precise time of birth.

A large, silver-haired, handsome man, he possessed the acclaimed Libran charm and love of life. He adored throwing parties and could be outrageously generous. At a recent birthday party of mine, he insisted on bringing and preparing all the food himself. Earlier this year he took a group of some 20 friends for a week's skiing in Kitzbuhl, in Austria.

Despite being a friend and confidant to the celebrated and elite, many of whom - such as the Beatles and Elton John - he got to know when they were starting out in the 1960s, he always denied that he was "astrologer to the stars". His favourite saying, borrowed by John Lennon for his final record jacket, after Walker mentioned it to him over breakfast in New York, was "Life is what happens while you're making other plans."

Despite his insistence that he was but a skilled interpreter of an ancient art, there is a telling incident which happened to him on a visit to the ancient Oracle at Delphi - once the sanctuary and oracle of Apollo - with some friends. Unable to find the precise site of the oracle, they asked a local man, who simply pointed at Walker. It was something which even the world's greatest astrologer was unable to explain satisfactorily.

Sally Brompton

Patric William Walker, astrologer: born Hackensack, New Jersey 25 September 1931; died London 8 October 1995.