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End of an era as Blackburn business tycoon Fred Walker dies
Fred Walker, seen with his brother Jack (left) at their massively successful Walkersteel factory in Blackburn in the 1970s, has died at the age of 86.
JACK Walker’s brother, the Blackburn business tycoon Fred Walker, has died.
Mr Walker, 86, died at his Osbaldeston home with his family by his side.
Fred and his brother, the millionaire benefactor whose money helped Blackburn Rovers become Premier League champions, were the town’s two most famous and wealthy businessmen.
Mr Walker’s death has been described as ‘the end of an era’.
And a memorial service is set to take place tomorrow at Blackburn Cathedral.
The duo turned C Walker & Sons from a back-street scrap metal business into the nationwide steel stockholding giant Walkersteel.
By the time they sold the company to British Steel in the late 1980s it was a market leader with 3,400 employees in 60 locations across the UK and Ireland and sales of £623million.
Jack Straw, Blackburn MP, said: “He was a lovely man and he did a great deal for the area.
“It can be quite hard for a person in the shadow of a more prominent brother but he managed that very well and was a great success in his own right.
“He owned the Feilden Arms at Mellor where I used to drink and the Stanley House Hotel, which has been a great success.
“It’s the passing of an era and it is very sad.”
Mr Walker, who died on Saturday, was known as a private, family man and rarely spoke publicly.
In recent years he was widely known for his ownership and revival of Stanley House Hotel in Mellor.
He transformed the building from a dilapidated manor house to a grand hotel and in 2010, Stanley House clinched the prestigious Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board’s Business Tourism Award.
Mr Walker leaves his wife of 60 years Nora, children Jacqueline, Carolyn and Charles and grandchildren Jonathan, Claire, Florecita and Rolando.
A remembrance and thanksgiving service will be held at the cathedral at 11am, prior to a private family committal at Pleasington.
Canon Andrew Hindley said: “I think even though Walkersteel has been gone for 20 years there is a lot of affection in the town for Fred and the Walker family.
“We expect a good attendance and it’s only right that it is held at the cathedral where his brother’s memorial service was held.
“The service will feature aspects of his life and his work.”
Margo Grimshaw, Blackburn businesswoman and Lancashire Telegraph columnist, said: “I knew both Fred and Jack.
“Just after their dad died in 1951, when I had my dry cleaning business, they used to bring in their one suit and I had to get it ready quick.
“Fred was a very nice man, and they were just like the boys next door.”
The Walker brothers were brought up in terraced homes in Randal Street and Providence Street in Little Harwood.
Both served apprenticeships; Jack as a sheet-metal worker and Fred as a precision toolmaker.
The Walkersteel story began in 1945 when a teenage Jack began working with his father Charles.
With the princely sum of £80, his father started a tiny sheet metal working and car repair business in a back street workshop.
By 1950 turnover was £6,000 a year.
National Service in the Army took Jack away from the business for a couple of years while Fred returned from his stint with the Merchant Navy to join the firm.
Their father died in 1951 and the brothers began to build the business up.
By 1989 the firm was market-leader with 3,400 employees in 60 locations across the UK and Ireland and sales of £623million.
In October that year – when the brothers were approaching retirement age – they sold up.
The £330million they got from British Steel – Jack was credited with securing a price at the very top of market expectations – was the biggest ever fetched from a private company sale.