Friday 26 May 2017

Alan Graham Burns, 1952-2017

Many of you will have seen the recent sad announcement about Alan Burns' death. For those who remember Alan but could not make the funeral, his daughter, Sarah, has kindly allowed us to share the eulogy with you. On reading it, it is clear that Accies and Raeburn Place were both important to Alan and his family.


Dad was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1952. His father George and mother Margaret moved there to manage rubber plantations and he was brought up there with his younger brother Angus until leaving for boarding school. He attended Morrison’s Academy in Crieff. He never spoke very fondly of school except that school was where he met his great friend Jimmy Chrichton and that he used to sweet talk the cook to get an extra black pudding hidden under his fried egg. Dad was extremely clever and had the most bizarrely good memory for things like languages, music trivia and especially names and faces. There was always times either on holiday or just at the supermarket that he would bump into someone he had gone to school with. And he would remember everything about them. He was very connected and I quote ‘always knew a man who owned a hotel’. I once phoned him from Uni asking for a recipe for carrot and coriander soup. He asked me to give him a minute and an hour later I received a call back from a chef at the Balmoral hotel with an excellent soup recipe.

He went to college in Edinburgh to study catering and he developed a lifelong love of cooking. He could happily spend a whole day in the kitchen, rugby on, glass in hand cooking away. Sadly for us the outcome would sometimes depend on what he had picked up in the reduced isle at the shops that day– for he did truly love a bargain. The real low came the day of lettuce soup and we never let him forget it. Lisa also remembers him buying a reduced priced rabbit that he cooked for tea and tried to convince us it was turkey. He did make a mean beef stroganoff though. I remember one particular occasion when I brought a boyfriend home from University to meet the parents. Dad was very polite and courteous to him and I thought all was going well until we sat down to dinner and I realised he had made the spiciest chilli con carne ever known to man. I wasn’t sure if he was punishing the boy for being my boyfriend or because he played for Glasgow Accies. Dad denied both.

Once in Edinburgh Dad met my mum Kate, or blue eyes as he would call her. He had a nickname for everyone, normally not understood by anyone else but he still enjoyed them. As you know Dad was a big guy with a great head of hair, and not easy to miss but Mum would say that if you ever lost sight of him at a party you just had to look for the record player and there you would find him sat cross legged on the floor. He loved music which is a trait that carries on in Lisa, Alan and I and I hope you enjoyed listening to some of his favourite songs as you arrived today.

Mum and Dad married in 1977 and celebrated their 40th Wedding anniversary in March this year. Lisa came along in 1979. Apparently she was a nightmare sleeper so my dad would take her on late night jaunts in the car to help get her off to sleep, which just so happened to end up at Uncle Jimmy’s flat. Dad imparted his love of Aberdeen football club to Lisa and they enjoyed watching them lose together from a very young age. Lisa enjoyed treating Dad to VIP tickets to the 2014 league cup final in Glasgow which she assures me Aberdeen won and my dad enjoyed a slap up lunch sitting amongst old Aberdeen players.

I was born in 1981 and Alan in 1986. I have very fond memories of walking through Stockbridge on a Saturday afternoon from my ballet school to the rugby club. I quickly learned to wait until Dad was a few pints in before asking for money for the fruit machine and to stand quietly and nod when Dad told mum that the reason we were home late yet again was because we missed the bus. I loved those Saturday afternoons. And my Dad greatly loved his connection with Edinburgh Accies and all his friends at the club, it was like a second family for him. He joined initially as a player and later became the fixtures secretary, a role he held for many years, rallying bodies on a Friday night to fill the ranks of their four teams. Following his move to Whitehills he continued to take a keen interest in Accies matches and success. Whilst looking through some of his old paperwork I came across a diary he had started whilst on the far east rugby tour in March 1989 and if I may I’d like to just read you a short exert.

Monday 27th March 1989

This is the day of our first 15 a side game against combined services at Fort Stanley on the other side of Hong Kong. We wake up to brilliant sunshine, a marked contrast to the two preceding days – the island looks lovely with all its different bays. We eventually arrive at Fort Stanley to find that the combined services side has reneged on the fixture, believing that we would be too strong for them and passed their commitment over to the New Zealand Army team who are quartered there while they take part in the ten a side tournament and take in the sevens. Oh no! The New Zealanders give us a rugby lesson, going out 40 points to nine winners. The Duke of Edinburgh Regiment try to make up for Combined Services misdeeds by providing us with some very inexpensive beers which we join the New Zealanders in downing. We return to the hotel, those of us who played – pretty weary.

Tuesday 28th March 1989

Again, we wake up to brilliant sunshine and after breakfast decide to go and visit the ocean park, a sort of mini Disney world built on the coast. Quite a number of us go and the first obstacle is the cable car and quite a long one at that. Daddy says to his friends that he would prefer to walk but on the threat of being severely fined agrees to go. Getting off at the other end I find things go from bad to worse. One of the biggest roller coasters! I offer to go and set up the drinks and hamburgers but oh no, again after threat of a severe fine I am forced to join the queue. After the roller coaster, we have a snack lunch – I need 3 attempts to get a hot dog into my mouth! Later we go on to water world, which is just next door – this is much more me and I start to relax and enjoy myself. Shooting the rapids on big rubber rings, giant slides, waves etc. Later we go down to the Hong Kong Football Club for the pre-tournament briefing and introductions. Everybody making us very welcome and a lot of scots around. Indeed, I meet someone I was at school with.

My brother Alan shares my Dad’s love of rugby and they would spend time together at mini rugby every Sunday, though would often not be speaking to one another by the end of the day, sometimes due to Dad having sent Alan off during a game. They played together in Dad’s last match against Broughton. Alan recalls Dad making a rare clean break down the wing with him in support; shouting out for the pass and getting no response, he eventually resorted to shouting “DAD!” whereby he got a startled hospital pass and was crumpled in to touch to the sound of both teams roaring with laughter. Dad’s ability on the rugby field was always a point of contention; whenever you asked him if he’d won his game he would always pause and say eh no, but I made a try saving tackle.

My Dad worked for many years as a wine merchant for J+B and then Irvine Robertson Wines and he really enjoyed learning about and sharing his knowledge of wines. In 2006 my parents moved to Whitehills as we had spent every family summer holiday in a caravan in nearby Portsoy. We all have great memories of these holidays, including Dad standing outside in the evening come wind or rain, waving a tv aerial about so we could watch the wee black and white portable tv and us all shouting from the inside, left a bit – even when the picture was perfect. Dad would get sunburnt even in the north of Scotland and one year we took full advantage of this by writing a rude 4 letter word on his back in sun cream whilst he was asleep. He got very burnt everywhere else apart from these 4 letters and was quietly unimpressed, but in our defence mum watched the whole thing. Following the move to Whitehills he worked with Lesley and the team at Brodie’s law firm and again he really enjoyed and took pride in his work there.

We rarely ever saw our Dad lose his temper although he could be a very bad sport when losing at board games and he hated it if you didn’t squeeze the toothpaste tube from the end. He was always very soft and gentle with the three of us and we remember one particular evening on holiday when the three of us were ignoring mum’s instructions to tidy up and do the dishes by dancing around the kitchen table. Dad was instructed by mum to discipline his children. Looking a little flustered at the thought he shouted quite seriously at us – ‘Children, be gone from the table’ which we dutifully obeyed, leaving him to do all the washing up. As well as being terrible at discipline he was also awful at technology – the only text I ever received from him was a blank one. And at DIY he was useless. He fitted a bathroom cupboard upside down so the shelves fell out when you opened the door and he shaved the top rather than the bottom off my parent’s bedroom door after a new carpet had been fitted. Thankfully we had mum and Lisa to sort out his mess.

My Dad was a very private, quiet and stoical person who loved nothing more than to be surrounded by those he loved and facilitating them in having a good time. He had a great laugh and twinkle in his eye and it would only take a one liner from Billy Connolly and you could hear him laughing down the street. As many people have described him, he was gentle, kind and generous. A true gentleman who now is at peace. We are so grateful to have had him for the time that we did and I hope like me you have your own favourite memories to share.

In Alan's Memory

To commemorate Alan's love of the club, his family are looking to organise a memorial plaque that will take pride of place in the new development at Raeburn Place.

Alan’s long association with the club means many of you will have played with him and enjoyed his friendship over the years. If you would like to contribute to the target of £2000 to celebrate Alan’s life, mark his contribution to the club and honour his memory, then please click here.


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