Harry Burland

My first knowledge of Harry comes from his mother who told me that on leaving school he joined the PMG Dept as a Telegraph Messenger and rapidly worked his way up the ladder to become a telegraphist. She also told me that at the age of about 15 or 16 he put his age up and joined the 1st AIF to go to World War l. Fortunately for Harry his Mum found out and practically dragged him off the boat that was to take him overseas. (Annie his mother was very proud of her second son, who, at the time of relating these stories to me, was overseas with the Sixth Division AIF). He then resumed his career in the PMG setting many milestones along the way, and I was informed by many of his colleagues in the Dept that Harry was recognized as one of the best telegraphists in the country. I myself became a telegraphist in the Postal Department and whilst undergoing training at the Postal Training School I happened to mention to one of the Instructors that I was a nephew of Harry Burland and Gordon?s eyes lit up and he told me about standing behind Harry in the Telegraph Office in Wagga Wagga one afternoon and Harry was receiving telegrams and was sitting a message behind the Sydney Operator. Now this is an extremely difficult feat as I can attest to as throughout my career if I got more than a couple of words behind I was in heaps of trouble.

Harry seems to have anticipated WWll as in 1938 he put his age down to 34 and dropped the Henry from his name and joined the Militia as an Enlisted Signalman and re-engaged as a full time member of the 2nd AIF enlisting at Paddington on 3 November 1939 giving his age as now being 35 and was appointed to the 6th Division Signals as a Signaller. He embarked from Australia on 10 February 1940 and soon after arrived in the Middle East where the 6th Div soon became embroiled in the fighting against the Italian and German troops. He rose up the promotion ladder fairly quickly and on 8 February 1941 he was promoted to Sgt. On 8 March 1941 Harry was admitted to Hospital suffering from anxiety neurosis and one can only say that this was not unexpected as he really had no business fighting wars? at his age which was really 40 years at this stage.

On 26 May 1941 Harry was declared unfit for further service and embarked aboard the 2/1 Australian Hospital Ship and returned to Australia arriving back home on 24 June 1941. For the next 13 months Harry was in and out of Military Hospitals until in June 1942 he was declared medically unfit and recommended for discharge due to anxiety neurosis. On the 15th June the same year for some reason his discharge was cancelled and he was declared ?Fit Class A? and returned to light duties at No 1 Sig Training Battalion. He continued to serve until 21 June 1943 when the authorities finally realized that he was definitely not medically fit to carry out further duty and he was finally discharged on 21 June 1943.

On his discharge Harry resumed his original calling as PMG telegraphist and was appointed to the Chief Telegraph Office, which was based in the old GPO Building in Martin Place Sydney where he labored diligently until his retirement. Harry always had a sense of public service and was a long time member of the Australian Labor Party. On the 1st of December 1956 he stood for and was elected to the Council of the City of Sydney where he served as an Alderman for the unbroken period of 11 years. Harry served the Council in many capacities during his service and three times was elected as Deputy Lord Mayor for 1962, 1963 and 1967. He was a great friend and associate of another well-known ALP alderman of the same period namely Harry Jensen and on the three occasions of his Deputyship served under Jensen who was at these times Lord Mayor.

Here I must relate what I consider a funny story. Harry had a great sense of humour and was also great mates with my father Bob Munro who was a Sgt of Police stationed at Penrith during the 1960?s where he was the Station Sgt. When Harry Jensen would take a trip away (a fairly regular occurrence) Harry Burland would take over the duties of Lord Mayor, at the same time becoming eligible for the use of Jensen?s Motor Vehicle and Chauffer. On more than one occasion Harry would ring up Dad and say ?Bob I?m coming up to see you at such & such time and I have the use of Jensen?s car. Don?t tell anyone I?m coming?. So then later on a big black Govt Vehicle being driven by a chauffer would pull into the front yard of Penrith Police Station and any of the fair number of Police on duty would see this and think the Police Minister was arriving. This of course caused quite a scatter for a short while until they all woke up that it was not the Police Minister at all and calm would resume. Dad and Harry would chortle long and loud after each of these occasions.

Throughout his career as an alderman Harry always was a tireless worker for the Senior Citizens of his ward of Newtown and was instrumental in the erection of a Senior Citizens? amenity hall in King Street Newtown. This building was named the H A Burland Senior Citizens Centre and I believe is still standing today, although it has been much changed and altered during the ensuing years.

In 1969 the South Sydney Council was formed from some of the areas that had previously been administered by the Sydney City Council and Harry now stood for election to that body as his residence of many years was in Newtown, which now became part of the new South Sydney Council. He was duly elected to that body on 7 Sept 1969. Unfortunately a short time after his election Harry became ill and was admitted to the Repatriation General Hospital, where he succumbed to his illness and passed away on Thursday, 13 November 1969. Harry was buried in what was then known as Botany Cemetery where he rests together with his wife of many years (Gladys) in the Roman Catholic Section 2 Grave 870. Harry was buried by the RSL and therefore his headstone shows him as having been Sgt Albert Burland Aged 65 having been born in 1904, whereas he was actually born 16 October 1901.

And so this is a small tribute to a man I was privileged to know and who gave much to Public Service, especially to his home place of many years, the Suburb of Newtown.



(Contributed by Max Munro)