Daniel Burgess 3 April 1929 – 11 September 2012

Across to London early this morning for the funeral of my paternal uncle, Daniel (to us always ‘Danny’) Burgess, who was felled by a heart attack two Tuesdays ago at the age of 83. The funeral was held in Morden, which is to where my father’s family moved, bombed out, in 1940. There is a north- and south-of-the-river divide in London. Danny, who married my father’s sister, Janice, was born and remained a south London man, whereas my father married a north London girl and moved to the north of the city. Once London’s arteries began to fur up with heavy traffic, and before the M25 simplified matters, this meant that we saw less of Danny, Janice and their boys, Robert, Alan and Gary, than we would have wanted. We were fond of him because he was the archetypal chirpy cockney sparrow, always laughing and joking and joshing and with never a mean word for anybody or anything. He was also, in his own modest way, something of a hero. Just after he had finished his military service he was struck by tuberculosis and for two-and-a-half years he fought against the disease. By the end, he had just one third of each lung and a damaged arm left. Yet if you saw him wrestling with his boys or fixing something (he was always fixing something) you would never have believed it and he never, ever complained, though he had constant breathing difficulties. Later in life he developed a sailing bug but to get his licence he needed to swim and with so little of his lungs left he couldn’t float. He learned nevertheless with a group of handicapped children and a specialised teacher. Despite modest income and physical disabilities, Danny and Janice were globetrotters: camping in France, Italy and Spain when the boys were young, America, South America and the Caribbean when they were older. His sons each spoke at the ceremony and did him proud. As Gary, the youngest, so aptly put it, ‘He had such a big heart, and with that he was rich.’  At the reception afterwards the Westlake clan, now a diaspora stretching to Canada, Ireland, the Czech Republic, France and Belgium, was briefly and sadly reunited. Before I got my train back, my late father’s brother, Malcolm, showed me the Morden house to which he and my father had moved in 1940 (picture). Back home I have a picture of my father standing in front of the same house as a thirteen year-old. Malcolm’s son, Mark, and I remembered playing in the abandoned bomb shelter in the back garden. It really doesn’t seem to have changed very much, but of course so much else has.


  1. Mark

    Lovely comments, eloquently put and with nice reference to childhood memories. Keep in touch, Mark.

  2. Martin

    Thanks, Mark. Yes, let’s keep in touch! All the best, Martin

  3. Alan Burgess

    Hi Martin, thanks for the kind words about my father. I always walk past the Westlake house when visiting Morden and remember feasting on butterscotch pudding (nan was a cook at Raynes Park High) and taking the dog and the cat for a walk! I hope the next meeting will be the long overdue Westlake/Burgess reunion party! Alan

  4. Martin

    Looking forward to the party, Alan! Martin

  5. Mathilde Kramer

    I’m looking for a Danny Burgess who was a sergeant with the 49th (West Riding) infantry division during the war, in the recce unit. I wonder weather this might have been your uncle?

  6. Martin

    I don’t think so, but I’ll check and get back to you. Martin

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