The contribution and legacy of the late John Burnie, and the plans for the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway and Museum that he helped to develop, were the subject of a debate last week in the Scottish Parliament.
Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie thanked the dozens of MSPs who had signed the motions that she and Chris Harvie lodged on John Burnie and the Bo’ness railway museum.
“John Burnie’s passion shone through and he won people over with his vision. His enthusiasm rubbed off on those around him and drew people of all ages into the projects that he supported. John was an active volunteer in the early days of the SRPS, when it was based in a disused transit shed in Grahamston. He was also instrumental in the decision to move to Bo’ness, the subsequent construction of the branch line, and the creation of the museum as a centre for our railway engineering heritage.
“John had ambitious plans, but he was always very realistic and practical. I am sure that he would have continued to drive forward the development of the railway and the museum, and there can be no more fitting legacy than ensuring that his vision becomes a reality. John wanted the Bo’ness museum to be recognised as a Scottish national museum. Historically, industrial museums have tended to be less valued than their counterparts, particularly when they rely heavily on volunteers rather than paid staff. I therefore welcome the think-tank that Mike Russell set up to look at museum funding. I hope that it will create a level playing field for all museums.
“John Burnie sought to establish a training school to develop a new generation of engineers. I am sure that it would be money well spent. There is a need for more accommodation to protect projects and exhibits from the ravages of the weather, and there are costs in maintaining eight A-listed buildings. Better facilities and more modern workshops are needed, while support is required for volunteering within the museum, to encourage younger folk to get involved and sustain the number of committed volunteers. I seek assurance that the think-tank will consider those issues, raised by John Burnie and his colleagues, and take them fully on board in any recommendations.
“Following a meeting last summer with John Burnie and other SRPS committee members, I agreed to sponsor the recent exhibition by the railway museum. I also agreed to lodge a motion for debate. Sadly, this is not the kind of debate that we envisaged.
“John Hume, who chaired the SRPS for a number of years, told me that John Burnie was a thoroughly good man. I know that members in the chamber and visitors in the public gallery would agree.”