David Walker

David WalkerPhoto: UNB Archives & Special Collections
David Walker
Photo: UNB Archives & Special Collections

David Harry Walker (Canadian novelist) was born near Dundee, Scotland, on 9 February 1911. He received his early education in Scotland and later enrolled at the Royal Military College in Sandhurst. After graduating in 1931, he served with the Foreign Battalion in India and Sudan (1932–1938). On 27 July 1939, he married Willa Magee of Montreal, with whom he had four sons (Giles, Barclay, David, and Julian). Walker returned to England in 1939, where he trained recruits, and was then later deployed to France, where he was captured by German soldiers and became a prisoner of war. He spent nearly five years in war camps, an experience which he later wrote about in his novel The Pillar. Following retirement from the British army, he returned to Scotland briefly but soon after emigrated to St. Andrews, New Brunswick, with the hopes of becoming a writer.

Walker indeed had a very long and successful career as a writer, publishing nearly one-hundred short stories and about twenty books, including: The Storm and the Silence (1949); Geordie (1950); Digby (1953); Harry Black (1956); Sandy Was a Soldier’s Boy (1957); Scottisches Intermezzo: Roman (1959); Where the High Winds Blow (1960); Storms of Our Journey (1962); Dragon Hill (1962); Geordie: Roman (1963); Winter of Madness (1964); Mallabec (1965); Devil’s Plunge (1968); Big Ben (1969); Pirate Rock (1969); The Lord’s Pink Ocean (1972); Black Dougal (1973); Ash (1976); Pot of Gold (1977); and his autobiography Lean, Wind, Lean (1984).

Walker also had many short stories published in numerous Canadian magazines, such as Argosy, The Saturday Evening Post, The Atlantic Advocate, John Bull, and Woman’s Journal. “The Rescuers,” the first story he published in North America, was released in The Atlantic Monthly (1962). He also published a collection of short stories, Storms of Our Journey. Many of these stories were written between 1962 and 1974, and half were first published by Stuart Rose, a fiction editor for The Saturday Evening Post. Walker describes the stories in this collection as “[s]erious, some irreverent, some set in the jungle world of fang and bang, some in the half-world of fable and fantasy” (Foreword, Storms of Our Journey). Three of the stories are set in the Canadian North, a place Walker visited in 1950 and again in 1956, and a place that inspired his most famous novel, Where the High Winds Blow (a novel about a dogsled adventure). Many of his novels and short stories are autobiographical and are set in places that he had visited and lived in. For instance, Digby is a story about the Scottish Highlands, while Harry Black describes India, a place he lived in for nearly six years. Although Walker did write about his adopted country, Canada, he explained that it was sometimes easier to write about Scotland, the land that he grew up in and that is featured in the novel Geordie. Several of his books were also made into motion pictures, including Geordie, Mallabec, and Pirate Rock. The latter two were set in his adopted home, New Brunswick.

Apart from his writing career, Walker was also interested in community affairs. Acting as a conservationist, he served as the president of Sunbury Shores Art and Nature Centre in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, and was chair of St. Andrews Centennial Park committee (1965–1991) and the International Park Commission (1970–1972).

Walker won the Governor Generals Award for fiction in 1952 and 1953. He was the first New Brunswick writer to do so. For his achievements, the University of New Brunswick awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters in 1955. He also received the Order of Canada on 28 October 1987.

Walker passed away in St. Andrews on 5 March 1992 at the age of eighty-one. The Walker family has since established the David H. Walker Prize in creative writing at the University of New Brunswick to pay tribute to his successful writing career.

Jenna Rideout, Winter 2008
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Walker, David. Ash. London: Collins, 1976.

---. Big Ben. London: Collins, 1969.

---. Black Dougal. London: Collins, 1973.

---. Come Back, Geordie. London: Collins, 1966.

---. Devil’s Plunge. London: Collins, 1968.

---. Die Männer: Roman. Bern: Rutten Loening Verlag, 1968.

---. Digby. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1963.

---. Dragon Hill. Illus. Ray Keanne. London: Collins, 1962.

---. Foreword. Storms of Our Journey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962. 1-46.

---. Geordie. London: Collins, 1977.

---. Geordie: Roman. Zürich: Büchergilde Gutenberg, 1963.

---. Harry Black. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1956.

---. “Journey in the Dark.” The Saturday Evening Post Stories 1958. Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1959. 30-47.

---. Lean, Wind, Lean: A Few Times Remembered. London: Collins, 1984.

---. The Lord’s Pink Ocean. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.

---. Mallabec. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

---. The Pillar. London: Collins, 1952.

---. Pirate Rock. Illus. Victor Mays. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969.

---. Pot of Gold. London: Collins, 1977.

---. Sandy Was a Soldier’s Boy. London: Collins, 1957.

---. The Storm and the Silence. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1949.

---. Storms of Our Journey, and Other Stories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

---. Where the High Winds Blow. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960.

---. Winter of Madness. London: Collins, 1964.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

"Books in Brief.” Rev. of Sandy Was a Soldier’s Boy, by David Walker. Harper’s Magazine 215.1290 (Nov. 1957): 97.

“Books in Brief.” Rev. of Where the High Winds Blow, by David Walker. Harper’s Magazine 221.1326 (Nov. 1960): 123-124.

Cook, Janice. David Harry Walker (19111992). 1997. David Walker Fonds. MG L35. UNB Archives and Special Collections. UNB Fredericton, NB.

“David Harry Walker (1911–).” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski and Laurie Lanzen Harris. Vol. 14. Detroit: Gale Research, 1980. 552. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. UNB Libraries. 5 Feb. 2010.

Gauss Jackson, Katherine. “Books in Brief.” Rev. of Winter of Madness. Harper’s Magazine 228:1367 (Apr. 1964): 111.

“Pitching a Bit.” Rev. of Where the High Winds Blow, by David Walker. The Times Literary Supplement 21 Oct. 1960: 681.

Poore, Charles. “New Books.” Rev. of The Pillar, by David Walker. Harper’s Magazine 204.1222 (Mar. 1952): 104.

Sorfleet, John R. “Walker, David Harry.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2000 ed. 1999.