SCOTTISH SMALLBORE RIFLE ASSOCIATION
HALL OF FAME
Tom was one of the finest shots Scotland has ever produced. His relatively low number of caps is due entirely to the fact that he was an employee of the NSRA as its Scottish Representative and as such was expected to help organise its National Meetings, which usually precluded him taking part in them. However, he usually managed to take the week of the Scottish as a holiday (but not before overseeing the construction of the range), and all except 5 of his caps were won at those meetings. He was Assistant Range Officer at Bisley from 1935, and was the Chief RO from 1954 until 1974. He was also CRO at the Scottish for some years in the late 1960s and early '70s and was the CRO at the shooting events at the London Olympics in London in 1948.
He has the second-equal-highest number of caps
won at the Scottish Meeting. All his 5 Bisley caps were won consecutively
from 1935 while he was supposed to have been a Range Officer - maybe they
selected the team differently in those days!
If shooting had been a part of the Empire Games (now Commonwealth Games) in the 1930s and '40s when he was in his prime, then I have no doubt that Tom would have been a successful competitor. As an example of his skill, at the 1935 Scottish Meeting, the 'ICI' Competition then consisted of 20 shots at 25, 50 and 100 yards each. After his initial sighters at 25yds he then proceeded to shoot 600 with no further sighters (because, he said, he couldn't afford them!). This set a record which may or may not have been equalled.
This photo appeared in a newspaper shortly after this feat was accomplished. The caption reads "Mr Tom Walker, of Kinross, set up a record at the Scottish Miniature Rifle Shooting Championships at St Andrews. Scored possible 600 in competition over distances from 25 yards to 100 yards."
I don't think the ISSF would approve that glove,
Tom was born in 1897 in the gatehouse of Kinfauns Castle just east of Perth into a very rural life, and from the age of about ten had always wanted to shoot. He acquired an airgun with which he became very proficient, only ever shooting at inanimate targets. He joined the Territorials in 1913 and told them the reason was that he just wanted to shoot. They let him join even though he was a year too young, and he went to war in France with the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1914. He survived the war having accidentally become a motorcycle dispatch rider which must have been a comparatively safe job at the time. Initially he was a Company Runner (he was under-age to be in the front line at the beginning), but was wounded later on after he reached 18 by shrapnel in the back. He was leaning down to adjust the sights on his rifle when a shell burst behind him. If he had been erect he would probably have been killed. On recovery, he joined the group tunnelling under the trenches as most of the 7th were miners from Kelty in Fife. One day as he was having a go on a friend's motorcycle, an officer saw him and next time a dispatch had to be taken somewhere, he got the job and remained a dispatch rider for the rest of the war.
On demobilisation, he got a job as a motor mechanic in Milnathort, then moved to Fort William to run a garage there. It was there that he took up smallbore rifle shooting, with the Banavie club. After a few years he moved again, to establish the garage at the Gleneagles Hotel to look after the guests' Rolls Royces and such, which he really enjoyed. One of his tasks was to drive the hotel bus to and from the station, and carried many famous passengers. It was the late 1920s by this time and Tom had joined both Kinross Rifle Club and Blackford Rifle Club, splitting his time between them.
During this time he was experimenting and developing his shooting skills. Much was self-taught as there didn't seem to be a lot in the way of organised coaching or instruction in those days and he worked out for himself principles of shooting which are taught on day 1 of any instructional course these days. He produced a chart giving basic instruction and this was hung up on the clubroom wall, as it had proved popular with his clubmates at Blackford. This was picked up by Mr George Pethard, Secretary of the SMRC (Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs - the precursor to the NSRA), who had it printed and issued to all clubs in Great Britain. Tom got a guinea for it.
He was very imaginative and had many ideas for improving equipment and techniques and wrote many articles for the SMRC's Rifleman magazine. The SMRC was impressed enough with his expertise to offer him the job of their Scottish Depot Agent, supplying clubs in the Stirlingshire area, in 1932. The next year he was appointed as the their "Travelling Representative for mid-Scotland" with the princely salary of £160 per annum, along with a small car and 10% of profit on sales over £1600. This was his ideal job, which soon expanded into covering the whole of Scotland. He visited clubs throughout the country almost every day, supplying targets, ammo etc. Part of his job was to give lectures on all aspects of shooting, and one day his audience did not believe him when he said that if you were perfectly relaxed, you should be able to lie with your eyes shut for about five seconds before squeezing the trigger and still get a bull. So, he had to demonstrate,. He lay on the firing point, took aim, the lights were put out and five seconds later, much to his relief, he shot a bull. This obviously impressed his audience, so he made it a regular feature of his presentations.
His travels included flying (yes) to the Orkney islands, and he attended the first AGM of the Orkney MRA, where he acted as CRO at their Open Meeting and as umpire in the Inter-County match. There is a photo of no fewer than six SMRC officials in front of their plane in a Rifleman of 1935. This probably wouldn't happen today! As part of his Range Officering duties, he was the CRO at the shooting events at the Olympic Games in London in 1948.
Tom continued to be the NSRA rep in Scotland until 1975 and nobody who met him came away unimpressed. He was a real gentleman and was willing to help anyone with a shooting problem however minor (or major). He was involved in setting up the National Coaching Scheme in 1965, being one of its first instructors, and was one of the four original National Coaches.
He shot for GB teams in the Dewar, the Pershing (top-scoring with 399 in the GB team which won by 2 points in 1937) and the Wakefield. He went to the World Championships in Rome in 1935 and top scored the competition, but the team came 4th. The King of Italy himself presented him with a gold watch and a World Maestro Gold Medal. In 1937 Tom took part in eight international matches: the World Championships in Helsinki, the Pershing, the Dewar, the Wakefield, the RWS match, the FIDAC match (not too sure what these were) and both Home Countries matches for Scotland.
In his lifetime he made many friends, some of whom have had trophies named after them, nowadays competed for at National Meetings and other competitions. As far as I know there is only one trophy named for Tom Walker outside his club, namely the Scottish Universities Long-Range championship. This was created by a group of ex-students who had got together as the artificially-named Scottish Universities Graduates Association of Riflemen (a bit sexist, but it was the only pronounceable acronym we could come up with) to raise funds for such a trophy (and also a women's one) as nothing existed then. The trophy was acquired and taken to Tom to let him see it. He was very moved with this dedication, and said "I thought you had to be dead to have a trophy named after you!" This was the early 1970s and he still had a long way to go.
Tom's name is inextricably linked with Kinross & Milnathort Rifle Club, and it was perhaps the dominant club in Scotland in the late 1930s. Given that its outdoor range (4 firing points each at 50yds and 100yds) was literally next door to his house and depot, it made his shooting life very easy. It was handy for customers to his shop to try out new kit as well. It made him very sad when it was sold for housing in I remember being very impressed when I watched Tom make up his stickers for an open competition, which had to have name and club written on them. All he put was "TW K&M". I thought that was very cool. Everyone knew who it was.
Tom married twice, both times to shooters. He married another K&M member Grace Archibald in 1936 and they had a son Bill in 1938. Tom celebrated the event by becoming the first person to score 400 in two successive matches in the Scottish League. The Rifleman of July 1939 shows Bill Walker at age 1 attending his first Scottish Meeting. Grace died in 1955, but the next year he married again, to Nancy Paterson (known universally as Pat, even to Tom), who was no mean shot herself, winning the Flowers and shooting for Scotland Ladies and the GB Randle team. Bill won the Scottish Junior championship (the Harry Lauder) in 1956, but I have no further information about his subsequent shooting career.
The Scottish Smallbore Rifle Association was set up in 1974. Initially Tom wasn't too sure about this new organisation as he was afraid it would lead to a division among Scottish shooters, but he soon accepted that it had a role as a strong voice for Scottish shooting. In 1975 Tom was elected as one of the SSRA's first Honorary Life Members "for exceptional services to Scottish Shooting" It was richly deserved and he considered it a great honour.
Tom retired from the NSRA in 1975 and he had to
give up shooting in 1980 aged 83 as he just could not hold the rifle steady
although he could see well enough. He continued living in the same house
in Kinross until his death in 1986 during the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games.
Many of the officials running the shooting events at the Games took time off to
go to his funeral, and I think the schedule was adjusted to allow for that.
Much of this information has been gleaned from the booklet "Tom Walker Remembers", published privately in the early 1980s. This writer is honoured to have known Tom for the last 18 years of his life.