Last of the eccentric letter writers

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News of the death of Tony Walker brings to an end the era of eccentric letter writers whose letters graced the pages of the Chronicle for many years.

Tony — for those who don’t know — followed the teachings of Benjamin Creme, who died only weeks before Tony. Creme was described on Wikipedia as a Scottish “artist, author and esotericist”, and editor of Share International magazine.

News of Tony’s his death came to us from his friend, Idina Le Geyt, of London, who said he died aged 83 after a short illness on 29th December.

Let’s hope he’s been met by something of what he expected. Mr Creme claimed the second coming, prophesied by many religions, would come in the form of Maitreya, the world teacher. Maitreya is the name Buddhists use for the future Buddha, who comes at the end of the world, but Mr Creme claimed that Maitreya was the teacher that all religions pointed to.

At one point, there was a Brick Lane connection but Maitreya allegedly also appeared in Africa. There was a photo of this — tall, noble figure in white walking through a crowd — but we were never convinced. The onlookers were clearly looking elsewhere; the second coming at least would merit a second glance, one would feel.

Mr Crème, who himself died on 24th October aged 93, worked for 40 years spreading the good news of the coming of Maitreya. According to Ms Le Geyt, he often said that the readers of the Chronicle were some of the best-informed people in the country concerning Maitreya’s emergence, because of Tony’s many letters.

One could dismiss Tony as slightly mad did he not follow Mr Creme’s teachings, and equally dismiss Mr Creme as a charlatan did he not seem to do genuinely good work. He flew the world giving talks it’s true, but he apparently made no real money, donating it all to his charity.

He also talked of the Space Brothers — they create crop circles, obviously — and Tony once wrote despairingly of Jupiter probe Galileo being crashed deliberately into the Jovians, innocently working on their good deeds on the planet below. Shakespeare was with them, we seem to recall.

Tony wasn’t the most eccentric correspondent; that was surely Una T, an otherwise respectable lady who still walks among us so will not be named. Bored, she started writing surreal letters that were picked up by others and developed to the point where the letters were so bizarre (if you were not in on the joke) that someone wrote to us saying we should not be printing letters from the mentally ill.

Then there was Alan Roberts, the pagan Sandbach lorry driver who wrote in weekly attacking in most vicious terms the local council, anyone who crossed him and organised religion. He hated vicars. He campaigned that Rose Alley (near Waitrose) in Sandbach revert to its original name — Shitten Alley.

He was also a cross-dresser; we once sent a reporter out to him for something or other, and the reporter was most unsettled to meet a burly lorry driver in women’s clothes.

We contacted her this week and she recalled: “He would greet me in some vile crimplene dress complete with accessories, which were usually big plastic beads and dainty little earrings, not forgetting the heeled women’s shoes. I met him on a number of occasions, but the first time he opened the door dressed as a woman, I had to pick up my mouth from the floor.”

Alan was an avid Chron reader and hated the Crewe Chronicle; people in Sandbach traditionally buy one or the other and refer to both as “the Chronicle.” When Alan died, he stipulated in his will that he would be buried in a body bag under a tree in a field, and only the Chronicle would be invited.

He clearly meant us, but the solicitor who read the will was a Crewe Chronicle reader, so “Chronicle” to him met them, not us.

Alan had written to us for years about his burial plans but presumably on the day a baffled Crewe Chronicle reporter had to go out and watch a pagan funeral with no clue as to why he was there. In one way it was annoying, in another amusing at the thought of the incandescently angry letter it should have prompted from beyond the grave.

Not that being dead is a bar to writing in. There was Ebb Tide, who wrote rather serious commentaries on local politics for many years. He was a kindly, thoughtful man and we liked him, but he perhaps rather over-estimated his own fanbase.

After he died, we received his final letter, in which he revealed his name and said he had been Ebb Tide all these years. Sadly, it was received by complete indifference as far as we could tell.

Pithier but equally regular letters came from Roy Acton, who detested the EU and wanted out. He would be delighted at current events, and it’s a shame he’s missed it.

Then there was Joan Cottingham, who sent in erratically written letters — she used to fill the page and then write round the edges – but we can’t actually remember what she wrote about.

Bert Latham was from Weston and wrote often, with pointed observations on life. He also wrote the most appalling poems, which we nearly always printed. The Vogon poetry in the Hitchhiker’s Guide was a step up from Bert’s. The words “twixt, “t’was” and “’tween” have not appeared in the Chron ‘ere Bert left the mortal coil (as he’d have put it).

Other regulars just move on: Eric Raybould was once a weekly feature but retired to Wales, taking his partner, the splendidly named Wendy Raffles. Eric was bit like Mr Grumpy, but more mature. As a boy, he was adopted by General Montgomery we seem to recall. Or maybe it was Lord Mountbatten.

Eric’s chum Don Reid also wrote in. He was a professional comic and eventually started working the cruise ships. He did send in odd letters from the High Seas, but no more. We think they fell out when Eric accidentally ran over Don in his car.

Andrew Aitchison wrote amusing letters for a time, but then got a life, or at least a girlfriend, and stopped. John Machin, once Mr Blobby’s scriptwriter, sent in immaculately crafted one liners until Una T mocked one.

We were quite surprised at the affection for Tony Walker on Facebook: his funeral is on 31st January at 2.40pm at Crewe Crematorium.

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