Chris Burley School photo

Christopher Burley

Grange 1955


When did you go to St Lawrence College and why?

I went to St Lawrence in the summer term of 1951 primarily because of my asthma. We had smog in NW London and it was pretty unhealthy so the prescribed wisdom was to live on the coast, preferably in the south east.  The same thing happened to my father who had a prep school in Cliftonville.  My parents knew, and were impressed by, a number of people who were Old Lawrentians including the Headmaster of my Prep school.  I also liked St Lawrence College and the boys that I met when I visited so, although I was due to go to Greshams, a public school in Norfolk, I ended up in Ramsgate instead.

Favourite subject(s)?

My favourite subject was Maths.

Favourite teacher(s)?

My A level subjects were Maths, Physics and Art and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the teachers that I liked most were those teaching these subjects. A.G. Gallant taught me Maths (known as ‘Aggy’), Physics was Geoffrey Matthews and the Art teacher was Mr Smith. I got on well with them all.  I was the only boy in the Science 6th doing Art. Mr Smith knew that I was considering Architecture as a career and suggested that I might not find the creative aspect of this profession as easy as I hoped.  As a consequence I started to look into Accountancy which turned out to be an incredibly helpful piece of advice. In fact I regret not having the opportunity of thanking him for turning me towards this career which worked out very well for me.  I hugely enjoyed my career and would never have considered this profession had it not been for him triggering the whole thought process and a complete change of direction. I will always be grateful to him.

Favourite sport(s) – if any?

I played a bit of cricket and tennis but my asthma stopped me from participating fully.  Interestingly though, the fact that being unable to play sport as much as others gave me a greater determination to succeed in all other parts of my life.

Who were your closest friends?

My closest friend was Tony Bowell.  We were both at the same Prep school in Herne Bay and both started in the same term and belonged to same House. I have also remained friends with Roy Davidson and Sam Musgrove who joined the same House in the previous term, and Anthony Close from another House but who lived in the same town as my parents.

I am also in contact with Donald Fromow, whom I see regularly although not in 2018 as his wife has not been well. He was in Lodge from 1951 to 1956 but we were in the same classes before we went into different sixth forms .

What did you value most from your education (what mattered most about your education)?

The Christian ethos was the most important thing that I got from the School. It was extremely strong with the presence of the Head, Dick Perfect, and the Housemaster, Martin Martin-Harvey, and a lot of the boys were sons of clergymen or missionaries. We had a strong Christian Union which played an important part in my life.  I was confirmed at the College and came to maturity in the Christian faith whilst there. In fact the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, confirmed me in February 1953 just before he performed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June!

What qualities and values did St Lawrence teach you?

The Christian ethics and integrity were pretty central.  However being an only child and asthmatic, the School taught me independence and self-confidence – I must have been a pain in the rear end when I left School because I thought I knew everything and that I could conquer the world.  However having a decent degree of confidence has stood me in good stead in later life.

What career(s) did you follow?

Thanks to Mr Smith I went into Accountancy.  I did my ‘apprenticeship’ or articles with a small firm of accountants in London rather than go to University.  I qualified as a Chartered Accountant after five years at c23 years old and joined Price Waterhouse, one of the large firms, in order to get wider experience.  My intention was to spend two or three years there and move on a company like Unilever.  However I spent the rest of my career there and enjoyed it greatly.  I became a Partner in 1972 and in 1983 I became Managing Partner for Price Waterhouse in the Thames Valley for the last ten years of my working life.

Other activities?

Outside of work I became very involved with the Church.  I was a member of the Bishop’s Council and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Finance for the Oxford Diocese.  I have been admitted to The Order of St Frideswide. This award recognises “outstanding contributions from lay people in the Diocese” and is similar to ordained people being made honorary canons of the cathedral. Only about twenty people have been admitted to the Order since its inception at the beginning of this century, so it is quite a select group and I feel very privileged to be a member.  I have also served as a treasurer and churchwarden of our local church.  I am currently a pastoral care visitor and am permitted to take holy communion to people in their own homes when they are unable to get to church which is another privilege. On an entirely separate note, I have also been a big Bridge player playing at County level and had pre-trials for England and the final trial for Senior England.  It satisfied my competitive spirit!

I am married to Delia, a retired doctor, who worked in general practice and then ran the diabetic retinopathy screening clinics at our two hospitals.  We have two sons who were educated at Radley which is nearer to our home than Ramsgate! One is a scientist and the other an illustrator.  What could be more different?!

 Are you still in touch with fellow Old Lawrentians?

I am still in touch with four Old Lawrentians (mentioned above) which is pretty good after 63 years or so! We have had reunions recently which have been great.

How would your friends describe you?

I have never really thought about it. I have always had the reputation for having a fairly loud voice though!  I was pretty studious and enjoyed academic work.

How would you like to be remembered?

One of my principal aims in life is to make is to make a positive difference to the lives of all with whom I come into contact. I obviously don’t achieve this, but I would like to be remembered for trying and never giving up!

Chris Burley Recent photo

Copyright St Lawrence College 2018