‘Daft as a Brush’ charity Communications manager, Dave Harrison, reports on Brian Burnie, a remarkable man who has invited FEPOWs and families to join him on his fund-raising walk for cancer care...
“I’ve known Brian for 12 years and his philanthropic nature is quite moving; he has done so much yet never talks about it. I remember hearing that he gave respite to young people living in areas of the Ukraine and Belarus which were suffering the effects of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1988, for example.
Brian Burnie was a successful businessman in the 1980’s and 90’s.
He purchased a stately home in Northumberland, called Doxford Hall, which took him over 10 years to convert into a luxury hotel and spa with 25 bedrooms. He then sold the hotel for £16m and set aside the majority of his wealth to create the ‘Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care’ charity.The charity offers free transport for cancer patients who require chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. In the 10 years the charity has been operating, it’s gone from two ambulances to a fleet of over 30. The service is only made possible by the 300 plus volunteers who work passionately each day for patients. To date, even through the Covid crisis, over 45,000 patients are helped each year.
In 2006, Brian hosted a traditional fish and chip lunch at his home in Doxford Hall in Northumberland for thousands of ex-servicemen and their families. The RAF helped bring in 2,500 portions offish and chips (estimated to be 1.4 tonnes) from Sea houses village, five miles away, to feed former PoWs, veterans and their families and other guests at the free VJ-Day party. A short film about the VJ-Day party is here: https://vimeo.com/423524711
For the last two years, Brian has been on an epic 7,000 mile walk round the coast of Great Britain and Ireland; his mission is to take what the charity does in the North-East nationwide. His dream is to create 1,000,000 cancer patient journeys, free of charge. Along with his wife Cheryl, they’ve been living in a double-decker bus called Bluebell. Another short film detailing the walk through Wales is available at: https://vimeo.com/391458042.
The Covid crisis, however, put a stop to their walk after 5,126 miles,completed as far as Devon. Brian is now back in the North-East, walking circuits of his garden and the neighbouring golf course to clock-up the equivalent miles he would have covered back to the region. He’s aiming to complete the distance from Torquay to Teesside on 15th August 2020 – VJ Day 75. Another short film about his alternative walking is at: https://vimeo.com/420224908.
The charity would be honoured to receive any FEPOW or veteran to walk the last 50 yards of this leg with Brian and be his guest of honour at a small gathering (with social distancing respected, of course). Brian will happily cover any costs personally accommodation, arrange transport for a veteran, family member and/or a carer to be present. This would apply if more than one veteran could be available. Brian will complete his 7,000 mile walk in September 2020 - ‘the last leg after lockdown’ -when he will walk from the Teesside area back to Newcastle city.
This gives a rough illustration as to what the charity does and an insight into Brian’s personality. His philanthropy and personal sacrifices are well-documented. Now 76 and battling Parkinson’s Disease, Brian is determined to complete those 7,000 miles to raise awareness of the need for cancer patient transport all over Great Britain and Ireland.”
If you and a FEPOW or veteran would be interested in joining Brian on the 50-yard last leg, please contact Dave Harrison Communications, at: Dave.firstname.lastname@example.org
or Brian directly on 0191 28 55 999. Registered Charity Number: 1185836. 157, Great North Road, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 2DR.