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Dr Malcom Burr, Resident Engineer to the Kent Coal Concessions, Ltd.

Dr Malcolm Burr was Resident Engineer to the Kent Coal Concessions, Ltd, working with his father Arthur Burr who had established Kent Coal Concessions Ltd, to buy mineral rights in east Kent between Canterbury and Dover and exploit the potential of the coalfield by setting up collieries. One such colliery was Tilmanstone. Malcolm Burr married Clara Millicent nee Goode in 1903. They had four daughters, Gabrielle Ruth Millicent, born on the 6th of July 1905, Rowena Frances, born on the 13th of August 1906, Yolanda Elizabeth, born in 1908 (registered in Eastry), and one other.
Two of the Tilmanstone shafts were named after Malcolm Burr’s daughters (Arthur Burr’s granddaughters). The Gabrielle shaft was commenced on 19th November 1907. A miniature spade, made in the works, was handed to two-year-old Miss Gabrielle by the men to cut the first sod, and also a handsome silver spade with a polished oak handle was used, bearing the following inscription; “With this spade, on the 19th of November, 1907, Miss Gabrielle Burr turned the first sod of the Gabrielle Shaft Tilmanstone” (See first picture). Gabrielle Burr (1905 -1968) went on to gain her pilots license around 1931, and subsequently an instructor’s licence by 1933, and was Britain’s first woman flying instructor. Gabrielle Burr met her husband Arthur Patterson around the same time, and taught him to fly. They were married in June 1931 but divorced in 1939 although she continued to use her married name.
Gabrielle served in the Air Transport Auxiliary during the second world war and was one of the first eight women pilots accepted into service as No 5 Ferry Pilots Pool on 1 January 1940. The ATA ferried new, repaired and damaged military aircraft between factories, assembly plants, transatlantic delivery points, maintenance units (MUs), scrapyards, and active service squadrons and airfields. It also flew service personnel on urgent duty from one place to another and performed some air ambulance work. During her time with the ATA, she flew these types: Moth (155 hrs); Miles Master (35 hrs); Oxford (105 hrs); Proctor (8 hrs); Hart (1 hr); Dominie (25 hrs); Magister (6 hrs); Harvard (8 hrs); Q.6 (1 hr); Lysander (6 hrs); DH86 (1 hr); Anson (42 hrs); Hurricane (26 hrs); Rapide (2 hrs); Spitfire (33 hrs); Blenheim (21 hrs); Douglas variants (1 hr); Defiant (1 hr); Fairchild (26 hrs); Hampden (3 hrs); Wellington (26 hrs); Hudson (6 hrs); Tutor (1 hr); Botha (3 hrs); Stinson (2 hrs); Whitley (1 hr); Beaufighter (2 hrs); Mosquito (2 hrs); Swordfish (4 hrs) and Typhoon (1 hr).
On Tuesday 9th August 1910 Miss Rowena Burr (aged nearly 4) turned the first sod of the third pit at Tilmanstone (see second picture). This pit was started after the two existing ones had entered the coal measures. “About 12:32pm the ground was broken by a charge of dynamite, Miss Rowena Burr pressing the button from a stand about 100yds. away, and seemed greatly surprised at the loud explosion which followed. A move was then made to the spot where the little lady, with a silver-mounted spade, turned the first sod”.
Despite hitting a rich seam of coal in 1913, the financial situation of The East Kent Colliery Company deteriorated to such an extent that at a meeting in 1914, the investors advanced more funds on the undertaking that Arthur Burr and his son, Malcolm, resigned and took no further part in the business. Prior to the Burr’s enforced resignations they had also both been directors of the East Kent Railway. Malcolm Burr (6 July 1878 – 13 July 1954) went on to become an author, translator, noted entomologist, and geologist. He taught English at the School of Economics in Istanbul, and spent most of his life in Turkey. He died at the age of seventy-six, due to an accident, that occurred on 13 July 1954 in Istanbul. One of his most remarkable abilities was the gift of learning languages-he spoke fluently all the European ones, including several Slavonic. He was elected Fellow of The Royal Entomological Society in 1896 He was also a good sportsmen, playing cricket for Shepherdswell and becoming Master of the West End Harriers (foxhounds) during his time in East Kent.

Vince Croud

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