Burns 50 Memories

Louise Rayner and Jane Edwards

As I opened the gallery this morning, I was met by a woman waiting to meet her friend. I was to find out soon she was Louise Rayner from Waimate and her friend was Jane Edwards from Dunedin. They had decided to come to the Forrester Gallery after reading about the Burns Memorial Art exhibition in the Otago Daily Times. Both had worked with George Burns when he was the editor of the Christchurch Star in the 1960s.

When I found this out, I asked if I could interview them about their memories of George Burns. They were both reporters who started their careers in journalism with George Burns, or as they called him Mr Burns. The first thing they recalled was when he received his CMG honour at Buckingham Palace. The joke in the office was that they would need to call him God now.

Louise had walked into the Star office and asked if there were any positions available. She was taken on and later when ‘Aunt Hilda’ the children’s editor left Louise asked Mr Burns for her job and he said, “I don’t see why not” and was given the job.

Jane talked about her interview with Mr Burns and how after hearing who her English teacher was at Christchurch Girls’ High; she was offered her job. This stared a 25-year career in journalism and in later years she was the regional editor in Dunedin for TVNZ.

Louise and Jane both describe Mr Burns as very well respected in the community. They looked up to him. He was a wonderful mentor to them both.  When they started their careers there was no structured training for journalism, so training was on the job. Mr Burns ran training sessions and provided them training of a high standard. They couldn’t remember him using cross words or raising his voice.

They could both still see him walking from the elevator down the corridor past their open plan office often with a pipe in his mouth!

Image: Louise Rayner (left) and Jane Edwards (right).

Elizabeth King
Education and Engagement Officer

Ingrid Cole