John Burnham was born and raised in Brighouse, growing up in the area that is now the Assembly Rooms car park. John's grandfather, Helliwell Stake, owned and ran the locally famous "Bow Window" pea and sausage shop.
There were stories about John and friends go-carting down Huddersfield Road to the Bow Window (not to be attempted today).
Primary school was Longroyde JM&I in Rastrick. From there, John attended Victoria Central School (now closed), and his main skill became evident at a young age; that of his ability to work with wood. His school reports showed average ability in every subject apart from woodwork where he was top of the class. A small table that he made when he was only 14 is now in possession of one of his grandsons.
From Victoria Central school, he was appointed a pattern maker; his first job was at Mitchell & Jenkinson in Hipperholme (later to become known as Womersley & Broadbent). It was here John worked with a lifelong friend Arthur Jackson. Arthur went on to open a Pattern Makers at Brighouse Common, which is still operating.
During this time it is believed John attended Brighouse Technical College and gained a qualification in City and Guilds Carpentry and Joinery. At college one of his tutors was George Ripley who was to go on to offer John a job at Davenport Engineering in Bradford. John took up the offer and started as a draughtsman and stayed with the company for the rest of his working life.
John's ability and ambition led to him being promoted to Contracts Manager in the 1970s. Davenport built and packed cooling towers for most of the major Power Stations. Drax, Ferrybridge and the Meadowhall cooling towers were all developed by Davenport's. The now-demolished Bradford Power Station had 12 Davenport cooling towers. The original products were of wooden construction which explained why it was a company for John to develop his career.
Later he was appointed Managing Director of the business in the 1980s. During this period the company prospered, and John became a Main Board Director of the Holding Company.
John married Barbara in 1956 with Richard and Jill, their children, remembering a happy childhood, in particular, the Freemasons Christmas parties being a highlight; especially the arrival of Father Christmas through the upstairs window towards the end of the party. Given that this was the Assembly Rooms in Brighouse and on the upstairs floor.
There were also cricket matches at Lightcliffe cricket club, bowling matches and an annual church service with Sunday lunch which families attended. Jill particularly remembers the Ladies evening, her mum always had a lovely new dress and on Sunday morning seeing what the Worshipful Master's gift to the ladies was.
When John was the Worshipful Master, he gave ashtrays as presents and must have purchased too many as they always had a good supply of ashtrays at home.
John worked hard in his career, and Jill remembers that this often involved business trips to Australia, Finland, India. John was very family orientated despite the long hours demanded by his work. Holidays would often be abroad exploring parts of France and Austria at a time when package holidays did not exist and no internet to make the necessary arrangements.
Famously, however, good weather was essential for the family. If the rain came, John would prefer to go home, even curtailing a holiday.
Before the children were born and for a short time afterwards, John and Barbara were involved with the Brighouse Amateur Operatic Society. This can not be mentioned without recalling John's role as "Luther Billis" in "South Pacific". He always boasted he took the role on tour performing the same part at the Bradford Alhambra Theatre.
Work and family commitments led to John deciding not to take on any more roles after the early 1960s. He was, however an extra in the film "" Room at the Top"- a film based in Bradford."
At heart, John was a Brighouse lad and bought his first house in Archbell Avenue, where he had been brought up. After this, he moved onto to Huddersfield Road, into one of the larger Victorian villas.
For relaxation, John continued to put his practical skills to use. At Archbell Avenue, he built his own dormer extension, kitchen and garage for the property. This continued at Huddersfield Road where a new garage was built by John. Each weekend he would have a particular project on the go, which inevitably involved the use of his favourite material wood.
It is no coincidence that both Richard's and Jill's houses were purchased requiring significant renovation. There was no better way to support his family employing his skills. His regular expression during these projects was always "It's all about an apprenticeship". His life skills and love of projects was put to good use.
This reflected his approach to life "if something is worth doing, it needs to be done to the best of your ability, and only perfection is good enough." There were no ill-fitting joints in John's work, and square was a given: John could see an out of square picture on the wall from 100 paces, such was his eye for detail.
In his 60's John decided to become a member of Central Methodist Church where he attended regularly. As he had not been baptised as a child, he had first to be baptised. He was given the option to do this in private, but he made the decision to have the ceremony in front of the whole congregation. It was an extremely emotional service which many members of the current congregation still remember. It again shows John's attitude to life "if a jobs worth doing its worth doing it properly."
Freemasonry played a large part of John's life commencing on the 22 November 1957 when he was initiated into Rastrick Lodge No 4885 which met at the Brighouse Assembly Rooms in Briggate, Brighouse. His proposer was the Lodge Chaplin W Bro C W Greenwood. (It is interesting to note that the Junior Deacon who has an essential role in looking after the initiate was W Bro Sydney Ackroyd who became a stalwart of the Lodge and a life long friend of John). He underwent the 2nd degree ceremony on the 25 April 1958 to become a Fellowcraft Freemason and was raised to the degree of a Master Mason on the 23 October 1959. He became a Steward in 1959 and then firmly on the lodge ladder as Inner Guard in March 1961.
Johns progression through the offices culminating in him becoming Worshipful Master of the Lodge on the 2 March 1966.
His installation was well supported with 31 attending from his own lodge 10 from the mother lodge Brighouse and 52 visitors from 32 lodges. The representative from the Province was the Asst PGM W Bro R E Pleasance.
The Worshipful Master had a very full masonic year with the passing of Bro Rhodes at the April Lodge, the initiation of Alexander Richard Sturgeon at the
May Lodge, the raising of Bro Rhodes at the June lodge, an initiation of John Robert Sharp at the July Lodge, the passing of Bro Sturgeon at the September lodge, the passing of Bro Sharp at the October lodge the raising
of Bro Sturgeon at the November lodge and the raising of Bro Sharpe at the Lodge 1967, culminating in the installation of his successor in March 1967.
After he came out of the Chair, he became the Director of Ceremonies for the masonic year 1968-1969 and Chaplin of the Lodge for the masonic year 1969-1970.
In 1976 he became the Secretary of the Lodge which is a very demanding and time-consuming office and served in this capacity for the masonic years 1976-1977, 1977-1978, 1978-1979, 1979-1980,1980-1981. This shows his dedication to Rastrick Lodge.
His commitment to Freemasonry in general and Rastrick lodge, in particular, was rewarded with his first Provincial appointment in 1975 as a Provincial Steward and subsequent promotions to Past Provincial Grand Deacon in 1978 Past Provincial Grand Warden in 1982 and to become one of the rulers in the Province when he was appointed an Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Yorkshire West riding in 1993.
In November 2007 he was presented in the Lodge with a 50th certificate to commemorate his membership and service to Freemasonry by the then Deputy Provincial Grand Master Jack Pygott. This was a memorable occasion as they were seated facing each other in the Lodge and discussed and reminisced on events and memories of his masonic career thus far. It was another milestone for the Lodge because some years earlier W Bro Ackroyd had similarly received his 50th certificate.
What is very sad is that a special event was planned for the 6 December 2017 at the regular Lodge. W Bro John Burnham to be presented with his certificate to commemorate his 60th years as a Freemason. Sadly and unexpectedly John passed away on the 4 December 2017 only days before the meeting.
John became a joining member of another Craft Lodge the Lodge of Harmony No 275 (a Daylight Lodge) in Huddersfield on the 7 September 2000 and was installed as Master in November 2001.
He was an honorary member of the following Lodges:-
Caldaire No 9625, Tateshall No 7645, West Riding Acting Officers 9645, West Riding Fairways No 9964, St James No 448, and Lightcliffe No 3332.
He was also a member in the Royal Arch Joining the Brighouse Chapter No 1301 on the 25 November 1963 and the office of Most Excellent Zerubbabel on the 1 October 1970, Provincial Grand Rank in 1978 and Grand Rank to Past Grand Standard Bearer (PGStB) on the 26 April 2001
Freemasonry was for John a natural extension of his belief in doing the right thing and being honourable in his dealings with others. There are many people who John helped either practically or with guidance and advice when required. Additionally, John would not shy away from defending others and seeing the good side or potential, where others could or would not do so. It is
true to say that many people's lives were changed for the better by his patronage.
After retiring, John and Barbara continued to travel and enjoyed regular holidays home and abroad. The arrival of grandchildren meant that they also enjoyed a new generation. Family holidays at the seaside were an annual event, and John looked forward to these trips and just being together and surrounded by those he loved.
As it was stated in the eulogy given by John Boyle at John's funeral "He lived respected and died regretted".