Michael Baker’s Eulogy to Douglas Joseph Burton MBE
All of us gather here today to celebrate the life of a man who was much loved, admired and respected by so many.
Douglas Joseph Burton MBE
Carol, Janice, Judith, Kim and their families will miss him so much, so will his friends.
Seated – Doug Burton
I would like to take you down memory lane and share with you a few glimpses of what went on behind the scenes and also some of the issues that confronted Doug on a daily basis in what surely was the golden era of newspapers in this state.
During the war as a flying instructor Doug taught Jim Macartney to fly and this forged a lasting relationship which was just as well for some of us.
After the war business and commerce soon boomed and by the late 50’s and early 60’s many new cadets were hired to cater for the expanding needs of the company.
The photographic staff now consisted of returned war veterans a few in betweeners and many new cadets all under his leadership.
During his time as a flying instructor, Doug formed the view that high spirited young men made the best pilots and he took this view with him into civilian life. Hire high-spirited young men, he said.
He interviewed hired and managed these high spirited young men who were all good at their jobs.
But….. Good at their jobs as they were, the best shall we say…… were free range and indeed, dare I say it, some were quite feral.
Back row: Alex Regos, Joe Wheeler (beard), Graeme Dalton (dec – white hair and glasses ), Greg Burke (glasses) and Ron D’Raine (moustache)
Middle row: Tony Ashby, Doug Burton (dec) and right hand side Ian Ferguson
Seated: Tom Dann (dec), Phil Martin (dec) and John McKenzie
Back row, L to R;
Kevin Davidson, David Tanner, Ron D’Raine, Barry Hall, Graeme Dalton,
Alex Regos, Joe Wheeler, Greg Burke, Don Palmer, Ian Ferguson, Richie Hann
Front row, L to R;
Mike Zekulich, Mike Baker, Doug Burton, Tom Dann, Tony Ashby
To make matters a bit more difficult for Doug, these testosterone charged young men were given access to high powered cars as part of their jobs.
Indeed if hoon legislation was in force in those days it would have been highly likely that many of WA Newspapers extensive car fleet would have been locked away in police yards.
Now for a legal disclaimer.
We must remember not to judge these young men too harshly as this era was a long time ago when things were a bit different and many speeding offences were committed when news photographers chased deadlines.
Unfortunately for many, Mr Macartney insisted on viewing all accident reports and speeding tickets once the cops had sent them to the office.
Mr Macartney had sent multiple memos to all staff insisting that there was no situation where speeding was acceptable and that miscreants who disobeyed this order would face the full force of his anger.
Therefore Doug who was incredibly loyal to his boys had to tread a well worn path to the quarterdeck on many occasions to plead their case for understanding.
On many of these occasions after he had talked the MD into leniency, and no further action, these meetings often finished with more than one drink.
After one of these sessions Doug was driving home at low speed as the sun peeped over the Darling Range when an errant lamp pole jumped quickly onto the road and smacked his Studebaker right between the eyes. An accident report had to follow.
Years later he told me that Mr Macartney examined his report and sent him a memo which read
Memo Mr Burton
I have reviewed your accident report and am not at all satisfied with your explanation.
Had you been drinking?
At random I have selected a couple of incidents of interest from the past behaviour of a couple of these young men.
Here are some details from their rap sheets.
A long term non reformed serial pest……Practical joker, serial speedster, multiple other offences which are far too many to detail here. He drove poor Max and Doug absolutely crazy.
Alex Regos…. Where is Mr Regos?
Mr Regos these days is a model senior citizen and butter would not melt in his mouth ….. He’s almost a national treasure…… Back then he clocked up a large number of speeding offences.
He was in fact a serial hoon.
Indeed he clocked up enough hoon offences in a short time for Mr Macartney to ban him from driving for 6 months. In a high risk strategy Doug traipsed upstairs again and told the MD that Alex Regos was useless as a news photographer if he could not drive. He talked him into removing the ban after the civil court bans were complete.
On another occasion Alex got a bit lippy with DJB and performed a strategic retreat when Doug stopped him mid sentence and told him, “Don’t push your luck pal”.
Now we turn to Graeme Dalton.
His rap sheet included speeding offences and accidents where his report claimed that 4 crazy nuns had run him off the road causing extensive damage to the office car. Also the nuns had fled the scene without stopping. Mr Macartney said bullshit. This was a true report but he had another accident when he ran into the back of a Morris Minor van in George Street. He blamed the van driver in his report but that accident was actually caused because Graeme was looking at Twink Pummer’s bare legs.
In the interest of fair play I must confess myself to a number of very minor incidents which were nothing really.
I confess to being a bit feral and a bit of a hoon. My wife claims to this day I am still a hoon and very feral.
There were a few accidents, one where a high speed crash caused the car to be totalled, another where I drowned a landrover, multiple speeding offences including a high speed race with Alex Regos in Charles Street, which I feel sure he not me probably instigated the event, expenses violations, and I also pleaded guilty to sending a very large sky rocket up the office communications tube.
Hardly anything really!
The rocket affair was serious as I was told that Doug wanted to see me as soon as I appeared for my shift and to bring my own carpet. Wow.
He had his serious face on and the conversation went like this.
Did you send a large rocket up the tube last night?
Why did you do that?
Quick think……. I don’t know! ………….Now he has nowhere to go I thought.
You don’t know well pal I’ll tell you a few things that you might care to know.
Firstly Mr Lawler has already sent a memo to Mr Macartney suggesting that you should be sacked.
Secondly as your rocket went over the head of poor ageing Miss Connie Hooker, you caused her heart palpitations and I am reliably informed that she wet her pants and thirdly you may care to know that Mr Macartney has summoned me to the quarterdeck and in his words to “try to convince him not to sack you”.
Fortunately for me DJB used his persuasive charm and magic again and I was spared.
In those days there was no occupational health and safety departments, no purchasing department, no personnel department, no damage control and mitigation department and no research and development support…….
DJB managed all of these things himself as well as the day to day situations which he handled with great skill and above all humanity.
He was the boss…. But at the same time he was your teacher, your defender, your advocate, your coach…….. He was your guide and your friend.
His people skills were just beyond brilliant.
His moral compass always pointed exactly true north.
As I look around here today I see many people whose successful careers were kick started by Doug. All are incredibly grateful.
When Doug passed away last week I emailed Reg Morrison who used to work with us and I would like to repeat Reg’s response which says it all about this special person.
“I have fond memories of him as a truly good man, a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. He was a fine boss and bought good judgement, good humour and compassion into the office on a daily basis…..”
Three cheers for DJB.