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100 Queens Park Circle
Toronto, Ontario
Canada

A club for people interested in collecting and learning about the science of minerals. 

Recollections

- Prof. Robert Ferguson

I was a student the University of Toronto in the early 1940's in the honours geology course, taking the mineralogy and geology option (rather than chemistry and mineralogy) in the final two undergraduate years. I got my Bachelor’s degree in 1942. The professors who had the greatest mineralogical influence on me were A. L. Parsons who was nearing retirement, and especially, Martin A. Peacock who had come from Britain about 1937. (Unfortunately, I never met Prof. T. L. Walker, long since retired, after whom the club was named. He died in 1942. I did my two higher degrees with Peacock, a Master’s in 1942-3, and after a stint as a civilian meteorologist attached to the RCAF, a Ph.D. during 1945-7.The Walker Club was founded in 1938, a few years before I came on the scene in mineralogy. As shown by the club's meetings recorded in the journal Contributions to Canadian Mineralogy (sponsored in part by the club), beginning in 1938, the first president was Prof. Parsons who presumably was strongly influential in its founding. However, Prof. Peacock, who had arrived only recently in the geology department, was present at the founding meeting, and his influence on the club must have been felt almost from the beginning. It was not long before Peacock, as the dynamic and enthusiastic newcomer, took over the initiative in the club from the aging Parsons. In its second year (1938-40) Peacock was on the executive as Councillor for the Department of Mineralogy. In 1942, he was elected president, and, in 1944, became editor of the journal.Almost from Peacock’s arrival in the late 1930s and early 40s in the Department of Mineralogy and Petrography, he attracted a group of able graduate students (if I may include myself among them!). Several went on as professors to spread the mineralogical gospel in a number of other Canadian Universities. Len Berry went to Queen's, Les Nuffield to U. of T., and Bob Thompson to U.B.C. I think of these people especially as my contemporaries and friends during that mineralogically exciting time in the department at Toronto.With his consuming interest in mineralogy and the Walker Club, it is not surprising that Peacock would draw into the Club his graduate students, and all of us soon became involved in giving talks to the club. In any given year, one of us was on the executive as a Councillor for Student Members.The different personalities of Parsons and Peacock must have been apparent to all Walker Club members of those days. Parsons, in his sixties, was tall, ascetic, slow, deliberate, and had a quiet sense of humour. I remember him, especially, seated in his big leather armchair in his big office at the Royal Ontario Museum (he was director there as well as a U. of T. professor). Pipe in mouth, he posed enigmatic questions to young graduate students such as what was the difference between “flotsam and jetsam”! Nevertheless, he expressed a deep interest in minerals in the classical sense, and loved the collection at the ROM.In contrast, Peacock was the young Scot, short in stature with a slight stoop, newly arrived at this colonial university, trained in the new field of x-ray crystallography which he was anxious to apply to research in minerals. He would help immeasurably anyone he liked but could also be very difficult for others. His sense of humour was, most of the time, one of his charms, but at other times, it had a bite. At one geology candidate’s Ph.D. oral at the U. of T., palaeontology professor, Madeline Fritz, asked the candidate to draw a vertical line up the left side of the blackboard and label it “Life” and then a horizontal line across the bottom of the board and label it “Time”. This was too much for chauvinist Peacock who could not resist asking, “And where does the Ladies Home Journal fit in?” As a white-haired graduate student of Peacock’s, I almost paid for this crack of his to Fritz when I came up for my own oral a few days later. She just about shot me down for not knowing the detailed anatomy of trilobites!I believe I gave two talks to the Walker Club during my graduate years. One was on huge (6-ft) sheets of muscovite mica from Mattawan Township, Ontario, which I was studying for my Master’s degree. The other was on cryolite and related aluminofluoride minerals -- thomsenolite, pachnolite, ralstonite, jahrlite, etc., -- from Ivigtut, Greenland. The latter talk was accompanied by a geological one on that deposit by Stuart Scott, a graduate student in geological engineering who had visited and worked on the unique Ivigtut deposit.The talks that I and the other graduate students gave to the Walker Club usually consisted of the detailed X-ray and morphological crystallography of the minerals that we were studying, so I don't know how meaningful or inspiring they were to the amateurs who made up the club members. However, Peacock and we, ourselves, were very interested in the crystal forms of our minerals, and I hope that our emphasis on the forms and appearance of our specimens made our talks of more than passing interest to club members.Peacock was responsible for suggesting the Walker Mineralogical Prize. After his death, it was renamed the Peacock Prize. It was given to a graduate student for an outstanding thesis/paper. I am pleased to learn from David Joyce that this prize continues today, and as a professional mineralogist, I express the thanks of the profession to amateur clubs such as the Walker Club for their financial support and encouragement of young mineralogists.