Life

The common themes throughout Walt's life were kindness, warmth and humour. He was always sociable and had a great talent for friendship. Much of his time was dedicated to others as a family member, friend, teacher and director, and he provided support, encouragement and inspiration in each of these roles. Walt was passionate about creative writing of all genres and, although he was extremely talented in his own right, it is his enthusiasm for the work of others which is the legacy that the Walter Swan Trust now aims to continue.

 

Walt was born in Lanark on 16 December 1954 and was very much a Scot despite spending the majority of his life in England. He attended secondary school at the Colchester Royal Grammar School, and went on to study English Literature at Hertford College, Oxford, graduating in 1976. From 1977 to 1988 Walt lived and worked in Croydon, teaching English and Drama at Trinity School where he was much admired by his pupils and tutees.

 

In 1988 he moved to Barcombe, East Sussex. During this time he worked in broadcasting (including writing for the ITV programme Blind Date) and as the Head of Drama at a large comprehensive school. He also gained a Masters Degree in drama (including a dissertation on Bertolt Brecht) from Sussex University in 1991. Whilst in Barcombe he was extremely active in the local theatre group, writing, directing and acting in a number of plays.

 

In 1997 Walt moved to Burley-in-Wharfedale in West Yorkshire. He quickly joined the Burley Theatre Group, where he acted and directed in various plays and ran a popular youth drama group. At the Ilkley Playhouse he volunteered, acted and directed, as well as being the artistic director for several years.

 

Walt taught English at Gateways School in Harewood between 2006 and 2010 and also did home tutoring. He worked as a freelance writer for publications including The Daily Telegraph, Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Ridings Magazine and the Ilkley Gazette, mostly with his writing partner and close friend, Yvette Huddleston. Much of this writing was on the subject of one of his great passions - the Yorkshire Dales. He published two books with Yvette – A Day in a Dale (2011) – based on features the two had written for the Yorkshire Post – and The Barefoot Shepherdess and Women of the Dales (2012). Walt, who was a keen amateur photographer, also provided the images for both books, and indeed for many of the magazine articles he and Yvette wrote.

 

Throughout his life, Walt produced a huge variety of creative writing, extracts of which appear on this website. With Yvette he wrote several plays and the very popular murder mysteries which were performed at several local venues. He was a regular interviewer and presenter at the Ilkley Literature Festival and appeared several times on BBC Radio Leeds.

 

At the time of his death, Walt was the Creative Development Manager at Ilkley Playhouse, with the remit to broaden its activities into a community arts hub, appealing to the whole population of Ilkley and area. He had been in the role for almost two years, during which time the venue welcomed many more people from the Ilkley community – with a growing number of activities hosted there, such as daytime classes, the literature festival, comedy nights, classical music and jazz concerts and cinema screenings – making the most of what the venue had to offer.

 

A member of Otley Golf Club, Walt had also played squash in Ilkley and he took part in fundraising cycling challenges, cycling the Coast to Coast route on two occasions. Earlier, rugby had been his passion, along with cricket, basketball and running, all of which he played to a high standard, representing his college and school. He was a keen supporter of Liverpool Football Club.

 

Walt met Niccola in 1975 and they were married in 1980. They have two sons, Laurie (born 1987) and Finlay (born 1989) of whom he was immensely proud. Family and friends from all stages of his life were very important to him. Walter died suddenly and unexpectedly on the 21 April 2014. It is not possible to put into words how much he is missed.

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