Lives Remembered: John Burkett

 

My husband John Burkett, who has died aged 82, was an engineer, falconer and an expert in wildlife rehabilitation. He wasn't that good at timekeeping, considering that he had wound and looked after the church clock at Hough-on-the–Hill for 10 years. Now he will be buried in the churchyard there on 28 June.

John was born in Eltham in 1929 and developed a fascination with flying when he visited injured pilots at Tunbridge Wells hospital, where he had been evacuated during the war. Later he took a short-service commission in the RAF, leaving to work on The Comet, afterwards moving to the RAE to work on the Blue Streak Project, before working as an agricultural engineer.

John was blessed with an enquiring mind, which was nurtured at the emergency school he attended in Deptford, resulting in his love of the arts. Summer visits to Somerset and Chubworthy Farm triggered a fascination in country life, wildlife and the environment which influenced the rest of his life.

We met at college, and together we worked in the rescue, repair and rehabilitation of wild creatures, dealing with anything from the killer whale caught in fishing nets to rescuing young peregrines from cliffs after the dead adults had been found. The cost of dealing with seabirds after the Torrey Canyon disaster left financial problems, necessitating a move to Lincolnshire. We advised on many occasions: an oiling incident on the American beaches, for example, or advising on diet for animals born in captivity, such as the panda born in a Spanish zoo.

One story John liked to tell was of the badger which was, in theory, rehabilitated to the wild, only to receive a phone call from a lady, who, while entertaining her WI friends to tea, found a badger joining them. On arrival, John found the ladies huddled in a corner while the badger picked the ham out of the sandwiches. The hardest part of any rehabilitation work is always returning creatures to the wild; the badger had been released for 10 months. This year marks the 60th anniversary of our charity.

John was a keen falconer, a member of the British Falconry Club for almost 60 years, past President of the Hawking Club of Great Britain, Chairman of LAND (Lincs and Notts Against Nuclear Dumping), a committee member of Cranwell Aeronautical Society, a pianist, organist and a gentleman, whose sense of fun and mischief was never far away. He is survived by myself, his son St John, daughter Sophie, and two grandchildren, Seth and Kizzie.

Molly Burkett

If you would like to contribute an obituary of a friend, colleague or family member please send a piece of no more than 400 words by email to obituaries@independent.co.uk or by post to Obituaries, The Independent, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee