In Memory Of JK Burningham.
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for joining us today. I am Simon, to quote John “we have all sorts of relationships in this family, steps, halves, allsorts” Myself one of Johns step sons.
I won't go into the complications of my pagan point of view of things here. needless to say I feel this is not, and should not be, about the passing of the vessel that bore John through our lives. It is a celebration of what it was that made John the man he was, and allowed him to touch so many of our lives.
The vehicle that is going to continue to carry John in our hearts and our minds from now on is that of stories. Stories of John that we as friends and family will continue to tell each other, about him, and the things he did.
To this end that is what I propose to do here, tell you some of my favourite stories of John.
You must turn to others to talk about Johns early life, myself having only known him since my late teens. Please be assured these are my collection only, you, I am more than certain, will have your own to share with each other later.
Firstly I remember loosing my grandmother (A difficult enough lady to loose in her red polka dot dress) during Johns inauguration as chairman of Horsham district council. John receiving his badges of office the rest of us running round trying to find Grandma. Only to find later that she'd popped down the pub for a quick Holsten Pils.
Then there was the time, Mum and John at an official function, when he was chairman of the council or some such official role. Leading the procession away at the end, in front of the Mayor of Crawley, he in his chauffer driven black limo, Mum and John in one of the many clapped out old mini's they owned at one period or another. Resplendent with the cake that Mum had won in the raffle that day still on the roof.
My own favourite, from what Lynda calls his “mental” phase, just after his car accident, is the period he spent convinced he was a midget submarine captain who had his legs removed from the knee down to fit in the boat with his crew who where entirely dwarfs.
The Christmas Lynda bought John a Max Bygraves video. I can still picture him sitting in the lounge by himself, the rest of us hiding in the kitchen, as he happily sang along to all his war time favourites.
John always well known for appearing in one of his three piece suites, and not just for gardening in. When John went to sit in on a hearing for some trouble David had at work, suitable attired as usual, David being told he couldn't have a solicitor present.
Or Mark, Paul, and myself, finding election posters for each of the divergent political points of view we held, decorating the windows of the house with them, especially for the visit of the local Conservative MP, whilst John was campaigning for one of his many elections. The amount of leaflet dropping, canvassing and general running around we did for him during those periods. Despite the three of us not ever being, or ever wanting to be, anything to do with the Conservative Party.
Please don’t get me wrong. The humour wasn't only one way. Being use to John buying up every “Pick-Your-Own” produce there was locally, and having every type of bean one could find thrust upon us dependent on season. There was no surprise when he presented us with a Shepard’s pie one evening to warm us up, resplendent with many such styles of bean. Not realising the warming element he'd planned for us was the four whole chilli's he’d placed in it without telling us.
Enough has been said about the drunken nights at the Black Horse in Amberley, cocktails, and driving home, all of us hanging out of windows singing along to the music at the tops of our voices. Whilst driving through the Sussex countryside in the middle of the night.
Picture John at another official function, planting flowers by a roadside. Jonathan, as a toddler had joined him, as fast as John is planting them, Jonathan was gleefully digging them up behind him.
My own personal recollection. Returning to University as a mature student. Needing a grant, they were still giving them back then. Marching into the county council offices with John by my side. Not a quick process for those who know, John being an extremely well know individual in those quarters, so many hands were shaken. On reaching the particular office, having a small bit of trouble with one of the officials, John stepping up and requesting the gentlemen’s superior, who was more than pleased to see John again, and more than pleased to help with my problem.
That’s perhaps one of the main things about John, which I hope I do alike as much as I can. His ever readiness to apply whatever resources or connections he could to help anyone who asked.
I mentioned Christmas earlier. Another year John and I had risen early Christmas day. Having had breakfast we had settled down to watch the usual repeated rubbish you get on early in the morning. The pair of us sat pretending not to cry as we watched the miracle at Christmas together.
I have used enough of your time and I think you now get the idea.
Finally (at last I hear you say). Whilst myself and a couple of friends were running our theatre company, we had the opportunity of using the old town hall in Horsham (the same location as the lost grandmother I started with). In the main entrance hall, half way up the stairs, on one of the walls, is a large plaque, holding various names of previous chair people of the council. A grid of four by five names apart from one, due to it's length, that has it's own line, as the full title reaches across the entire width.
On remembering this a a couple of weeks ago, just after hearing the news about John, it occurred to me that,
Group Captain J K Burningham MBE (Retired),
Has finally received three more initials to his more than illustrious title,
Group Captain J K Burningham MBE (Retired) R. I. P.