Dora M. Walker


Skipper Dora Walker

Dora Muriel Walker was born on 2nd July 1890 – the tenth child and fifth daughter of John Ely Walker and Elizabeth Mary Firth of Knowle House, Mirfield. She was educated at Malvern House and Roedean schools but heartily disliked the latter! Having finished her education she returned to Knowle House. She founded the Boys Club in neighbouring Ravensthorpe and also taught at the Sunday School and joined St Johns Ambulance classes.

In 1914 she joined up as a nurse at Tooting Hospital from where she went to Queen of the Belgians Hospital at La Panne and then to the Dutchess of Sutherland’s Hospital at St Omer until the Armistice. After 11th November 1918 she “hopped” a lorry to Mons and claimed to be the first Englishwoman there after the war. She was escorted by a group of Canadians back to St Omer to be greeted by much mirth and headshaking by Sister Millicent, the Dutchess.

She returned to nursing in London’s East End. After the blitz she bad bronchial problems and was advised to move to the coast so she bought both her house “Daneholm” in Sandsend and her boat “Good Faith” WY97.

The Good Faith

In Whitby she fished, qualified and acted as a pilot for boats through the minefields. She was the only woman skipper to hold her licence in the North Sea throughout WW2. She then continued fishing with her engineer Laurie Murfield crewing with her until she retired in 1954. During her lifetime she wrote three books, one about her experiences in WW1 and two about fishing in Whitby : They Labour Mightily and Freemen of the Sea.

She became curator of the Shipping section of Whitby Museum in 1946 and had a great love of antiques many of which were housed at “Daneholm”, including “Captain Cook” who stood at her front door. She was made Vice President of the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society and also President of the Ladies Lifeboat Guild in 1952, Keeper of Whitby Museum in 1954 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1953.

In 1980 she could no longer manage to live alone and moved into care in Sleights where she died peacefully.