Alfred Parker BURDEN

20th Hussars  

Rank & Number:
      Private, 32451  

05 September 1900; Glenside, West

                       17 February 1940; Kilmarnock Infirmary  

                      Brother of George, Hugh, James & John
                                Brother-in-law of McEwan Downie

ALFRED PARKER BURDEN was born 05 Sep 1900 at Glenside, West Kilbride, to parents Thomas, a gamekeeper, and Catherine Cooper Murray (who married in Symington on 30 Dec 1881).  He died on 17 Feb 1940 in Kilmarnock Infirmary, (aged 40, single, locomotive driver, residence 8 Busby Drive, Ardrossan), as a result of an accident in Fairlie Tunnel.  The cause of death was a fracture of base of skull, sustained when he slipped while working on the railway line, and the informant was his brother George.

He was a member of Fairlie Boy Scouts from 1915; noted in Scout log-book in 1916 as a stoker, aged 15, nicknamed “Curly”.  
                      Parents Thomas & Catherine 
at Glenside

In the 1901 Census, Alfred, aged 6 months, is living Glenside, West Kilbride with parents Thomas (41, b. Kirkoswald, gamekeeper) and Catherine (39, b. Symington), and siblings, Thomas (19), James (14), Jane (12), George (10), Catherine (8), Hugh (5) and  May (3)  

In the 1911 Census, he is aged 10, living Glenside, West Kilbride with parents Thomas (50, gamekeeper) and Catherine (48, m 30 years, 12 children), and siblings George (19, apprentice gardener), Hugh Paton (15, postman), Mary Ann (13), Violet (9) and Margaret (5)    

His medal index card shows he was awarded the British War and Victory medals, and was discharged on 14 Feb 1919.

Extracts from the Largs & Millport Weekly News:-  
From The Archive - 2 March 2016
Snow Plough Driver Dies In 1940 At Fairlie Station                       
The great snowstorm of 1940 resulted in frantic scenes to try and clear the railway tracks, and sadly, the death of a railway worker.  On Sunday 28 January, two snow ploughs, in attempting to clear the tracks, became stuck as blizzards continued into early Monday.  Frantic efforts overnight resulted in a third plough getting lost in the storms on the track, as it was discovered that the Fairlie tunnel was badly blocked.  

The snow drifts at Fairlie were 25 feet high, and the weight of the snow caused the waiting room to be crushed on the platform of the Glasgow side. Indeed, Fairlie Station was completely buried.   Additional snow ploughs of heavier build were sent to Largs from Kilmarnock but the five powerful locomotives, with dual fitted ploughs, came to rest in the high drifts as the solid banks of snow and could make no headway.

Railwaymen fought for 24 hours against the drifts to clear the lines but the efforts were futile as high winds caused more drifting and undid all their heroic work.  Two railway inspectors aboard the snow ploughs made their way by foot to a gamekeeper’s cottage in Fairlie, battling neck deep drifts, only to discover the phone did not work as they attempted to alert Largs station of the chaos. It then took them three hours through the storm to get to the signal box.  Three hundred soldiers were called in to clear the lines but even they were confronted with too hardy a challenge as news came through that well-known Fairlie man Alfred Burden lost his life after valiantly fighting the drifts.  The ‘News’ reported: “The final misfortune occurred when three engines with a snow plough tried to force a passage into the tunnel mouth. The driver of the leading engine was Mr Burden.  While they gained their objective, Burden’s engine left the rails and a bad smash ensued.”

Pictures courtesy Katherine McIsaac

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Fairlie Community Association SCIO
Scottish Charity No. SC028785