(Ernest) John Burnett Master 2000-2002
John Burnett writes:
I was born on the 7 October 1931 in Liverpool, I was the eldest of five children: with one brother and three sisters. My parents were Norie and Ernest Burnett. My father was a marine engineer - first with Cunard Line, then as chief Superintendent Engineer with the London and Overseas Freighters (LOF). It was this appointment that brought the family move to London in the 1940s. One of my most vivid childhood memories was travelling down to London during the war to see my father receiving the MBE at Buckingham Palace from George VI. Little did I realise I would be there several times as Master of the Bowyers! My father's ship was badly damaged by German Stukas in the Channel, and working in highly dangerous circumstances he made temporary repairs that enabled the ship to return to Southampton.
It was one of those coincidences that seem to happen in life, that the auditors to LOF were Moore Stevens! They have over the years provided a number of Bowyers and outstanding Masters of the Company. It was following a conversation between my father and one of the partners of Moore Stevens that I decided to become a chartered accountant.
I attended Liverpool Collegiate School having won a junior scholarship. With the family move to London I transferred to Colfes Grammar School - a school endowed by the Clothworkers Company. I then entered into articles with a firm located in Lincoln's Inn Fields: Barsham, Nixon and Hamilton - referred to by articled clerks as "Bash'em, Nick'em and Hammer'em "! I duly qualified as a chartered accountant, and went to become a Junior Partner with a firm in the West End. After some years I started my own practice. Whilst building up the practice: and husband to my wife and father of a young family I became a part-time lecturer at the College of Central London, previously the old Regent Street Polytechnic. I became Principal of John Burnett, McMahon & Co. It was at this time that I meet Timothy Glazier, whose family have a long and distinguished association with the Bowyers, and it was at this time that Peter Seaton, later to become Master of the Bowyers, joined me as partner.
In 1955 I married Anne, who has been a constant friend and a great support to me. We had three children: Brigitte, Jonathon and David. Bridgette is a practicing Osteopath; Jonathon was training to be a chartered accountant, but sadly died before qualifying, and David is a consultant designer and lives in New York.
It was Timothy Glazier who invited me to join the Bowyers and I was admitted to the Livery in 1976. I then invited Peter Seaton to join the Livery which he did in 1977. By this time the practice had moved into the City at Newgate Street and our boast was that we were the smallest firm of chartered accountants in the City!
I was an enthusiastic Liveryman from the start. I loved the City environment: the regard for tradition, whilst being open and responsive to the new. I found this reflected in the Livery Companies. In 1986 Sir Richard Neville asked me, if I would be agreeable to my name going forward for election to the Court, and in July of that year I became a member of the Curt. In 1996 I became Renter Warden and in that year Sir Roger Cork (as he became) was elected as Lord Mayor. The Bowyers, his mother Company , had pride of place in the Lord Mayor's Show. The Master, the late Peter Begent the late Peter Forrester, the Upper Warden, John Owen-Ward, the Clerk and myself rode in an open carriage behind the Lord Mayor's Coach, stopping at the steps of St Paul's for the dedication, and then into the law courts for the swearing in ceremony, when the Presiding Judge mysteriously dons the 'black cap'. The Mayoralty of Sir Roger was a milestone in the long history of the Bowyers, clouded only by his unexpected early death in 2003.
In my two years as Master, I was keen to promote communications between the Livery; and to that end 'Common Hall' was introduced. This was the opportunity for the Master and the Court to report directly to the Livery on the activities over the year, plans for the future, and the finances of the Company. It also gave the Livery the opportunity to ask questions and present their thoughts on the proposed events and plans. I was also keen to promote the Bowyers as a sauce of funds and support to young archers. This was prompted by an article in the Times reporting on the British Schools Archery Championships at 18 level, and the comment of the teacher who had trained one of the winners and saw him as Olympic potential, that the youngster needed sponsorship to develop his talent "because sport is not cheap". I made contact with the master concerned and through him: The Association of Archery in Schools and the Junior section of the Grand National Archery Society. The company provided sponsorship to these bodies, and I attended the Junior National Indoor Championships in December 2001 and presented prizes. In the summer of 2004, Master Peter Seaton attended the International Junior Championships at Lillieshall and presented prizes. It was a most impressive showcase for international archery, and it was entirely appropriate that the Master of the Bowyers should be present.
There were many special and marvellous visits, dinners and functions over the two years, as there are for all Masters. But the most moving was the Company's visit to the Globe Theatre to see Shakespeare's Macbeth. This took place on September 11th 2001 - the infamous 9/11 - the event which has become etched in our minds. The performance commenced, movingly, with the entire cast coming on stage and the audience being invited to stand and join a minute's silence in compassion for the people and families involved in the tragedy.
My main interests are music, walking and philosophy. Towards the close of my Mastership I attended a Livery Dinner and found myself sitting next to the organist of a City Church. I spoke of my interest in music and whether at the age of seventy plus it was too late to learn to play the piano! He asked me two questions: was I prepared to have a teacher who was also a concert performer, and did I suffer from arthritis? I answered Yes! And No! and within a few days I received from him names of teachers in my area. I met with one of the teachers and I have been having piano lessons ever since.
I have also served as a local Councillor on Maidstone Borough Council and been a governor, Maidstone School for Girls.