IAIN WALKER, Executive Editor of the Mail on Sunday, was one of Fleet Street's best-known journalists and was named Campaigning Journalist of the Year in the British Press Awards for 1990. He died doing what he loved best - climbing in the Scottish mountains.
His death was the sort of story which Walker himself would have excelled in telling. He loved tales of derring-do, of adventure, but above all of mountains, especially Scottish mountains. As a reporter he had covered scores of mountain rescues and had climbed in the Himalayas with Chris Bonington. He knew the risks involved, admired tremendously the people who took them and always, even at 48, sought to push himself one stage further. Walker lived life at the edge. To him, gambles were things always worth taking.
Walker was one of the finest exponents of popular journalism in contemporary Britain. He spent his entire career in popular newspapers and, largely through his skills, hitherto-ignored aspects of life in this country - such as the overweening powers of social workers, the fact that large tracts of land are banned to hikers and walkers, the slaughter of whales - were made truly popular issues.
He and his team of reporters were relentless in their pursuit of social workers in Rochdale, who had decided that 'Satanic abuse' was being practised on council estate children. It was entirely due to his exposes that the theory of 'Satanic Abuse' was debunked, that the government launched an inquiry into the methodology adopted by social workers, and that - in Walker's mind the supreme triumph - most of the children taken into care were returned to their parents.
It was for his reportage of the Rochdale case that he was named Campaigning Journalist of the Year for 1990.
Born in Dundee in 1943, Walker was the eldest of four sons of a shopkeeeper from Markinch in Fife. He was educated at Bell Baxter School, Cupar, and later did a BA (Hons) degree at the Open University. A devout Christian, he became, in spite of his Presbyterian Scottish background, a High Anglican. He was resolutely opposed to the ordination of women priests and loved 'bells and smells'. His often ferocious demeanour in the office masked his religious beliefs to the extent that few knew that between editions on Saturday nights he regularly walked up Kensington Church Street to say prayers in the Carmelite Church.
He began his journalistic career with the DC Thomson Group, working in Dundee, Forfar, Montrose and Inverness. He later joined the now defunct Scottish Daily Mail, before joining the Daily Record in Glasgow. He was a reporter on the Sun in London and became that newspaper's New York correspondent in 1977. In his journalistic career his major assignments included Black September in Amman, the Bangladesh war, the Yom Kippur War, and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
He joined the Mail on Sunday before its launch in 1982 and was the newspaper's first news editor. On the day of the paper's first issue he received a call from a friend at the Ministry of Defence who told him, 'I think I may have something to fill your first front page. We have just bombed the airport at Stanley.' The Falklands War had begun in earnest and Walker had achieved a 'beat' on the big story.
Ironically, his last foreign story was back in the Falklands with Mrs Thatcher for the 10th anniversary of the war.
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