Rodney and Ruth Burton's Genealogy Pages


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I received an e-mail regarding Max’s death from distant relatives in WA –both genealogy and distance wise.

The author is Barbara Pursell, a relative on our Mother’s side of the family.

 In part she writes-

”I was looking forward to meeting him in Adelaide for the family re-union – he being my main reason for coming....... He wrote such wonderful letters and also gave us information so freely on the family. I really looked forward to all his correspondence and felt like we already had met, and we had known both him and Joy for ages, even though we hadn’t........

(In) his last letter he said –

‘Life is this moment – don’t let the moments slip by for they become lost forever. God has given us the breath of life and he will determine when he will take us to his home above.

So please don’t be sad for I feel we are not strangers in the dark passing by .... But friends. May God bless you both”


Wow!! Now there is an eloquence about Brother B I never knew.


Being 11 years Max’s junior, my recollection of his early life is somewhat limited. However I am honoured to be giving the eulogy on that part of his life. It is always difficult to confine one’s recollections to a specific period. If I overlap with others, please bear with me.

Max was the second child of Roy and Helen Burton. He was born on 4th August 1919 in Broken Hill. We always regarded him as the eldest of the children as our parents’ first child, Kenneth, died aged 11 months in April of that year.


In those days Broken Hill, like many mining towns, had very basic homes and Max was reared in a wood and iron house with whitewashed hessian interior walls. Only recently Max took a photograph of that home.


The family shifted to Newcastle for a couple of years then returned to the Hill for a short stint before coming down to Adelaide where Dad worked for Forwood Downs before resuming employment with the SA Railways.


In 1926 the family moved into the home in Coombe Road Allenby Gardens.


Life here was pretty crowded with Mum and Dad and six children in a 3 bedroomed house including the lounge converted to a bedroom and at one stage Grandpa and Uncle Frank Burton were also living with us. So Max and Gordon slept on the front verandah without any good protection from the elements for some years and then Max developed pleurisy and Gordon contracted pneumonia. Canvas blinds were installed and the boys continued to sleep out there.


Only recently Max told me that he heard my first cries as I was born in our parents’ bedroom adjacent to the verandah.


Max was educated at Kilkenny Primary School until Welland School opened in 1926 and then Croydon Technical School.


 Dad had made two excellent carts for Max and Gordon and they were obliged to collect horse manure from the stables where Bunnings now stands on the Port Road. When dad had sufficient, the boys could sell cartloads to neighbours for threepence a load. They always served one particular neighbour first as that person paid them sixpence.


When seeking employment, the depression was well and truly hurting the nation and Max, like thousands of others, had trouble finding a job.


For a short while he worked at a flour mill near the junction of Port and Coombe Roads, then he managed to get a job near home at Sharpe’s celery garden which was one of the best in South Australia. Unfortunately on one occasion Max put a garden fork through his foot and needed hospital treatment.


Finally in January 1936 he secured an apprenticeship as a welder at Islington Railway workshops and ultimately became one of the best welders in that establishment and rose to the position of Sub-Foreman before his retirement.


His pay at the start was 7 shillings and sixpence (75c) from which he paid board, clothed himself and lived.


Among his achievements as a welder were the construction of the railway bridges over Marion Road, Marion, over Sherriffs Road, Lonsdale and the Darley Road Bridge over the Torrens River.


From 1954, Max was involved with the Railway First Aid group and over twenty years took part in many competitions and represented South Australia.


When Dad died in July 1937 it was Max who came to the school to get Fay and me. At the age of 18 he had to adopt a tougher role in the family as a pseudo father image. Mind you that didn’t necessarily go down well with his siblings but Max tried hard and was a great help to Mum in a bad situation.


 A couple of years later World War 11 began. Max’s work was classified “essential services” and he worked 3 shifts in rotation, including the notorious night shift of 11.00pm to 7.00am.


Being a 9 to 13 year old in this period, I had a penchant for some very noisy games while playing with my mates in the backyard. During the weeks of night shift Max would justifiably get annoyed as he was trying to sleep on the front verandah and Mum had to display her usual tact and pack me off to my pal’s homes to play.


Despite the shift work, Max managed to regularly attend York Church of Christ, often at three services. He also played tennis with the church team.


He was an ardent homing pigeon keeper and was reasonably successful. The pigeons would be sent by rail to Parachilna and Hawker and released to wing their own way home. But woe betide any noisy siblings when the pigeons were returning from their race and he wanted to catch them and clock their leg bands to record the elapsed time. Invariably on Saturday afternoons the girls would have clothing on the clothesline and Max would be “sushing “them inside so the pigeons would not spook as they came in.


He was very good with birds as I recall.  I raised poultry for pocket money by selling the eggs. On one occasion my young pullets were mauled by rats and, by chance, Max had called in and promptly sewed up holes in their chests and saved them for me.


If Max had to have a name change, it would have been to “Jack Blunt”.


I remember he was not the politest to his sisters and if they annoyed him he would tell them off and call them “barmaids”.  Of course, in those days in particular, that was the lowest of the low occupations. The girls’ faces would show their horror and they would caterwaul to Mum about his description accompanied by the pointing of fingers and much derision.


Probably around 1941, his siblings noticed changes in his grooming and a more meticulous attitude to his clothing. The reason being there was the daughter of a new minister at the church and they had caught each other’s eye.


Sibling rivalry was just as rife in those days as now and Max’s sisters took delight in calling him “pansy” as he slicked his hair and made sure he was very suave.


So it came to pass that Max and Laurel were married at York Church of Christ on 6/2/1943, after which they lived in a house in Devon Park.


In 1944 he was seconded to the Commonwealth Railways and spent 14 months working at Katherine. Apart from his separation from Laurel, Max found this a great opportunity to broaden his knowledge of our land.


He had always shown a great interest in Australian geography and history and was a regular subscriber to “Walkabout” magazine, a precursor to the Australian Geographic. 


The Great Depression, and the resultant high levels of unemployment, had a profound effect on Max’s attitude to employment and thriftiness.  No doubt his wages at the railways would not have been brilliant and he took every opportunity to work overtime to bring home more cash.

He was very frugal and I used to say that he had the first two bob he ever earned. But in reality he was trained by our father who, with his childhood background of a mini-farm at Kintore Avenue Kilburn, knew how to support a family with home grown produce. Conversely I did not have Dad’s influence and as a result was not so self-supportive. Also the times were changing.


When he and Laurel purchased their home on Churchill Road, they needed a new rotary clothes line. As Mum worked at John Martins and could get discount, she organised the purchase but the rules were that the article had to be delivered to Mum’s address in Allenby Gardens. I remember Max taking that line by bicycle in two trips to Prospect on his shoulders, thus saving delivery charges.. 


Max could never come to terms with the changes that the war brought for the likes of myself – even as teenagers we got jobs at week-ends with relatively good wages.


He grew up in tough times in a working class environment. Particularly in those pre-war days, master tradesmen like Max were well respected in the community. Sadly that has changed today.


As a consequence of his upbringing, Max developed into a hard working, clean living Christian. He was a typical Burton – often blunt (am I the same?) but he had a good sense of humour and was very honest and loyal.


Max never learned to dance, perhaps because of his beliefs, but I say that he is probably dancing now with his Lord as Kahlil Gibran says in “The Prophet” :


“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

 Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”



My Big Brother, on Jo’s and my behalf and for your siblings who pre-deceased you, I salute you.






Eulogy for Max delivered by his brother John BURTON.

Owner/SourceJohn BURTON
Linked toMaxwell Roy BURTON

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