Farewell to South Ealing's ''Guitar George''

Tributes have been paid to a well known local character who has died

George McWalter

A local man, known by many in the South Ealing area, has sadly passed, another victim of Covid.
Often to be seen wandering the streets with his faithful guitar strapped to him, or strumming it outside Co-op on South Ealing Road, George McWalter, 57, was adopted as a child, lived alone and had a difficult life.
News of his death has led to tributes to a man, not always in a happy place, but whose laughter could reportedly be heard far and wide.

A regular fixture in Ealing's popular music shop Gardonyi's opposite St Mary's Church, John Kelleher who helps out in the shop said:

''George was a busker and lived much of his life on the streets.  He loved music and knew a lot about it.  But his performances were quite raucous and strange. He admitted that people sometimes gave him money to stop rather than to perform.

''He enjoyed coming to the guitar shop to sit and talk and play.  He was less happy when customers came in.  They disturbed and annoyed him. We would explain that the shop existed for customers and not just for him. George did not always take this well;  sometimes he would apologize. He would tell jokes and stories and laugh uproariously.  His laugh could be heard streets away. George was not easy, or gentle or often very nice.  But he was a real character; we need more of them, not less.  We will miss him.''

Owner John Gardonyi has also paid tribute:

''We opened our shop over 16 years ago and I think from very early on George started coming in. He was scary! He was unpredictable, rude, abusive, loud and as we found out through the years harmless, lonely and scared.
He had many psychological problems, bipolar, paranoia and no understanding of how to interact socially which led to him being barred (rightly so) from many places. Yet inside was a caring individual trying to get out, always paid his debts, always buying gifts and praying for people he cared about. He lived for his music and loved his guitar (though did smash one up in frustration) and wrote some very clever songs.
George was born 24th August 1963. He was adopted as far as I know and seems to have spent much of his life alone. Sadly George never knew that many people in the community always looked out for him, but it’s heartening what a community we have in Ealing. So many people from St.John’s and St.Mary’s churches helped him as did so many people in the locality in South Ealing. Much of George’s time seemed troubled, but at least he is at peace now."

Godfrey Rust who leads Café Church, the evening community at St John's Church knew George well. He says: '' I christened him “Guitar George” (from the Dire Straits song Sultans of Swing – “Guitar George – he knows all the chords) years ago. We wrote a couple of songs together. I’ve some video clips of George and the words for a lot of his songs – he had a lot of talent – which I’m going to post on my website and Youtube to keep a permanent tribute to him.

"George sometimes complained he had no friends, but that wasn’t true either. He had friends at Café Church and the Soup Kitchen , at St Mary’s Church where he went most days, at John Gardonyi’s music shop where he also went almost daily, in the choir he sang in, in the cafes he went to and with people all over Ealing who he would see on his daily walkabouts. He had some personal friends from Café C and elsewhere who helped him – he had mentioned two of them by name to me in the last couple of weeks and how kind they had been to him over Christmas. He often gave others money, buying them meals and letting them stay in his flat.

photo taken by Andrew McLeay (formerly Ealing Soup Kitchen)

'' I’m in two minds about George’s passing. It’s very sad for all of us who knew him: when someone who’s so much part of our community goes, we will miss him a lot. But for George – I’m happy. He’s at peace now, and the highs and lows he’s battled with for so long are over. His regular prayers to be free of illness and cigarettes and anger have been answered with finality. The two things which George always came back to day after day were his faith and his music. He won’t be troubled any more and the heavenly choir has a new and sometimes startling baritone country vocalist to sing the praises of what Jesus has done for us all. Death – where is your sting!"


RIP George McWalter 1963-2021


Annemarie Flanagan

25 January 2021