Philanthropist Brian Burnie speaks to The Journal on his favourite places in the region.

Brian, 60, is a self made millionaire, prominent philanthropist and avid gardener.

Brian, 60, is a self made millionaire, prominent philanthropist and avid gardener. He lives with his wife, Shirley, at Doxford Hall, Northumberland, where they regularly hold parties for children.

Brian and Shirley have three children, 19-year-old Alistair, a student at Bristol University, and daughters - Fiona, 21, and Louise, 22.

Brian is well-known across the region for his charity functions. He opens the hall dozens of times a year for goodwill functions.

Last August he and his wife again organised a reunion for war veterans, an event which earned a Guinness world record for the largest ever serving of fish and chips.

Brian left school at 15 to work as an errand boy. His first proper break came when he was offered a student apprenticeship for builders John Laing. He went on to qualify as an engineer before moving into management, firstly in the building industry, then in the petrochemical field.

In 1979, Brian and a partner started Kelburn Holdings in Newcastle.

The firm of engineers and surveyors later moved into recruitment consultancy, which became its core business.

He has long been involved in charitable giving. When he and Shirley, married, they told their guests they didn't want presents and instead asked them to make a donation to Tyneside Leukaemia Research.

In 1989, he set up the PES Associates Charitable Trust to formalise Kelburn's charitable giving.

He has supported events including the world's biggest children's party on the Town Moor in Newcastle in 1989, which 120,000 people attended in return for helping to raise more than £260,000 for the Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital.

In 1993, Brian and Shirley bought Doxford Hall in north Northumberland and it regularly plays host to different groups.

To mark the Millennium, Brian and Shirley asked more than 1,000 pupils from Northumberland schools to help plant a maze of 32,000 trees.

Where do you live?

I live in Doxford Hall near Chathill, Northumberland.

How long have you lived there?

Since 1993.

What is your dream home?

I'm not sure really, but definitely somewhere in Northumbria.

How do you get around, (walk, car, public transport)?

It depends, really, but I bought a Ford Fiesta the other day. I also do a fair bit of walking, but no cycling - not since we went to Warsaw for the Marie Curie charity.

What is your favourite part of the North-East?

Northumberland - if I never left Northumbria again I wouldn't mind. We have everything we need here.

What is the best holiday you've ever had?

Our honeymoon in the Lake District.

What's the favourite thing in your home?

The grandfather clock. I love the sound of its ticking.

If you could have one luxury what would it be?

A new Barbour jacket. One of the Northumberland range. Mine are all past their sell-by date.

What are you working on at the moment?

The garden - it is an ongoing mission.

Who or what is the love of your life?

Waking up in the morning and watching the sun rise as I wake up.

What is your favourite shop?

Scot's butchers at the Grainger Market, Newcastle.

What is your favourite restaurant?

Blackett's, in Bamburgh, Northumberland.

Do you have a favourite pub?

No I don't have one, I'm not a drinker.

What is the last play or film you saw?

I can't remember.

What is your favourite meal?

My wife Shirley's homemade shepherd's pie.

Are you any good at cooking, do you spend much time in your kitchen?

I am absolutely, totally, utterly useless.

What book are you reading at the moment?

The Northumbria magazine, but that hardly counts as a book.

When and where were you happiest?

In the garden is where I am happiest. There is no where else I'd rather be.

What does the future hold?

I think it holds being worried about the environment. We've recently lost all of the box hedging due to a virus. Those hedges have been there for hundreds of years, theres been a change in the atmosphere, and that has killed the plants.

What is your proudest achievement?

When I last gave blood. Doing that is absolutely priceless.

Interview by Joseph de Lacey.


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