Video: Fourth generation boatman retires after 60 years on the Broads

14:59 16 July 2014

John Burton, a Broads boatman retiring after 60 years

John Burton, a Broads boatman retiring after 60 years


After six decades working on the Broads, fourth generation boatman John Burton is looking forward to spending more time... on the water.

Mr Burton’s family has been connected to Norfolk’s waterways since the 1800s when his great grandfather Tom Burton was a wherry skipper. The father of two, raised in Wroxham and now living in Repps, has spent 60 years working on the water, both as a boat builder and skipper. Yesterday, he turned 74 and retired from his job as a skipper at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden where he has been running boat tours of South Walsham broad for eight years.

“I was 14 when I started working with my father,” said Mr Burton.

“I was a fetching boy - go fetch this, go fetch that.”

Mr Burton completed a boat building apprenticeship with Herbert Woods in Potter Heigham and later worked for Easticks of Acle, before going into business with his father, Ted, running a hire boat business at Wroxham and Hoveton in the 1960s and 1970s.

He said he always knew he would work on the water.

His grandfather Harris Burton, also a wherryman, was a private skipper on boat called The Dragonfly. His father worked for C & G Press and skippered Grey Dawn, a 10 berth motor cruiser, before starting the family business.

“My grandfather taught me to sail at Wroxham,” said Mr Burton.

“He took me out among the bungalows on a 12ft dingy and I remember saying, ‘Granddad, can I go down the Broads’. He turned to me, took his pipe out of his mouth, pointed it right at me and said, ‘Only when you can sail this dingy through the bungalows and trees to my level of satisfaction, can you go out on the Broads’. I’ve always remembered that.

“It’s been my life and I enjoy it. I love the peace and quiet.”

During his career, Mr Burton has worked as a boat builder with Landamores, at Colin Facey at Horning, with the Norfolk Broads Yachting Company where he skippered the wherry yacht White Moth and managed the boatyard.

He started work at Fairhaven after visiting with his grandchildren who asked to go on a boat trip.

“We enjoyed the trip and I half jokingly said did they want any more drivers,” said Mr Burton.

“The answer ‘yes’ came back from Louise, the manager, and I started driving the Primrose.”

With more free time, Mr Burton plans to sail restored yacht, Sally, that he has spent three years renovating. He will also be kept busy with his children, Sandra and Stephen, seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Wishing him a happy retirement, Louise Rout, manager of Fairhaven Garden, said: “We are going to miss John and his great knowledge of boats and the Broads.

“But the good news is that we are going to keep hold of him for occasional car park marshalling duties at our special events. We wish John well and many happy hours sailing his boat on the Broads.”


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