B. James & Son Richard Walker MK IV –late 1952, signed by Richard Walker.
A unique and very special rod indeed in eminently fishable condition.
In correspondence between Richard Walker and James Bruce (founder of B. James & Son) in 1952, Walker comments on a MK IV carp rod that James Bruce has sent him for approval. While he suggests some minor adjustments to the ferrule’s size, ring spacing and handle length, his main criticism is of the Indian ink inscription on the rod above the handle. He tells Bruce that this is dreadful and suggests that while he’s waiting for transfers of his signature to be supplied, he will inscribe the rods Bruce has in hand.
It has been suggested that the number of rods Walker signed amounted to a couple of batches, but nobody has any clear idea of what a batch consisted of. As the blanks for these rods were supplied by Bob Southwell of Croydon, who made all his blanks by hand and therefore not in large numbers or at great speed, it may be that one or at most two dozen rods were signed by Richard Walker. Very few have come to light. I have seen and heard of a handful. Similarly, there are a tiny number of the rods bearing James Bruce’s inscription that Walker so strongly disapproved of. These Bruce-inscribed rods pre-date the Walker signed ones, and are therefore the earliest of all commercially produced MK IV carp rods.
One or two Walker-signed MK IV Avons are known to exist. As far as we’re aware, all of these Walker-signed rods have the early gold B. James ‘Built To Endure’ transfers. We have seen red whipped and green whipped examples.
This rod is whipped with variegated black and white silk. This silk was commonly used on very early B. James rods, notably the Avocet and the very rare Mallard. Its use was largely phased out by 1953 in favour of red and green silks. When varnished, the white component of this thread takes on a yellow-gold hue. The Americans refer to it as Jasper.
The rod is based on a hand-made split cane blank supplied by Bob Southwell of Croydon. The butt cap and reel bands were made by W R Products of Shepherds Bush. It is believed that many if not all early B. James rods were whipped by the wife of the famous London tackle dealer and bait breeder, Frank Murgett. I have no way of knowing whether or not she whipped this rod, but it must be possible that it may have been whipped by James Bruce, his son James Bruce junior, or someone else.
Between 2005 and 2015 we replaced the butt and tip rings using correct vintage rings and silk thread. Apart from that, the rod is entirely original, although I can’t confirm that the ferrule stopper is the one the rod was supplied with. It is a different shape to the typical rounded stoppers of the 1953 vintage, but it fits and is clearly old, so it may well be the correct one. The bag is original and the ferrule, which is of an early un-spigotted form, retains a very good fit.
The bamboo retains its full vigour and the rod is, overall in remarkably good condition. It is the only example we know of (there may be others of course) whipped with Jasper silk. Richard Walker’s signature is perfectly preserved and I must say, he did have the most superb handwriting.