Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cllr Mitchell Burnett - An Appreciation

I received some very sad news last night. After a long illness, Cllr Mitchell Burnett, a weel-kent face in Aberdeenshire and in SNP circles, passed away yesterday afternoon.

Mitchell was a distant relative of mine, but he was also a good friend to the whole family. He had the croft next to my grandparents at Tyrie, a place with a remoteness which would unnerve a lot of city dwellers used to having quick and unhindered access to what we would regard as many of life’s necessities. In fair weather but particularly in foul, where power and phone lines coming down is nothing unusual in the winter, Mitchell would always go out of his way to make sure that my grandparents were keeping well and had all they needed to stay healthy and warm.

After he became a Councillor, he came to Edinburgh frequently on SNP business, very often bringing my Grandparents with him for the day so they could see us. A master of the one-liner, his sense of humour was as dry as sticks, with often only the twinkle in the eye giving you the hint that he was pulling your leg ever so gently.

I last saw him when I was in Peterhead for a dinner to honour Alex Salmond’s 20 years as MP for Banff and Buchan. The ravages of his illness were apparent, and came as a shock. However, as auctioneer for the evening, he was in his element, with a lively put down and personal encouragement to get the wallet open for, it seemed, just about everyone there.

I went to see him the following day, by this time in his more familiar farming garb of boiler suit and boots. We had a ‘fly’, and a ‘news’ about everything from how my grandparents were keeping; his daughter Barbara Ann and her partner Andy’s exploits in the recording studio; the state of the cars outside; the excitement about the Blackhills finally getting mains water; even about Lewis Grassic Gibbon and the perils of switching between English and Doric. It was over too soon, but I’m glad I managed to see him then.

Alex Salmond visited Mitchell on Sunday night to present him with a lifetime achievement award, a fitting and timely gesture for someone who sought no recognition for his years of service to his chosen causes. The north east and the SNP have lost a good servant, and my family a stalwart friend and neighbour. We’ll miss him.


Ewan said...

Really saddened to hear about Mitchell's passing. You've done a really great job summing him up Richard.

I'd known Mitchell since we were both Regional councillors together and was one of the Grampian councillors who most enjoyed the friendly rivalry between Grampian and Tayside.

A sad loss to the north-east, Scotland and the Party and most of all to his family and friends.

Scotland is a poorer place without Mitchell.

jemima said...

Thank you Richard for your kind comments about Mitchell. I sat next to him on the Infrastructure Committee, and my favourite moment ever was when he was asked to give a reason for departing from policy in order to quantify why we should pass a plan. He thought for a few seconds then without so much as a smile said "weel, because the mannie needs a hoose". As you said, humour as dry as sticks, and I will miss him greatly.