Who is Athol Burns?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by designnovice, Jun 30, 2011.

  1. designnovice
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    designnovice New Member

    Hello all. I'm new to the world of boat design and am doing a bit of research. Thus far I've found many beautiful designs by Athol Burns, but little history on the man himself. What is the history of Athol Burns?

    I'm also interested in the Athol Burns yacht Christina. Does anyone know anything about her?
     
  2. CutOnce

    CutOnce Previous Member

    Googled him. Somewhat surprised to see a prolific designer with a strong following. Name sounds like a Bart Simpson crank call to Moe's Tavern.

    Who's Athol Burns? Mine does after particularly hot Habanero Chili Peppers.

    Got to wonder about parents that saddle their children with names like this.

    --
    CutOnce
     
  3. Tad
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    Tad Boat Designer

    Well I've been waiting for someone who knows something to give us a story, but it hasn't happened so I did a little research myself. I don't think I have heard previously of Mr. Burns, his name dos not appear in the Yacht Designers Encyclopedia....but he's not the only significant designer left out.

    Mr Burns is refereed to in a couple of places as "New Zealand's William Garden". I take that to infer he did many character vessels, but also that he had a diverse practice spanning many years. Looking at the Athol Burns designs currently available in New Zealand and Austrailia we see 15-16 different boats, some commercial vessels, power yachts, motorsailers, and standard sailing cruisers. They seem to span the period from just after WWII until 1980 or so.

    In this http://www.boatdesign.net/forums/sailboats/john-spencers-designs-7528-5.html#post471973 interview, John Spencer (One of NZ's most influential designers) mentions Mr. Burns several times.

    Unfortunately this was all I could find of his drawings....A big heavy ketch nicely drawn in a detailed style that could certainly be likened to the work of William Garden.

    AlthoBurns.jpg
     
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  4. bntii
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    bntii Senior Member

    I googled as well and found the following site:

    http://atholburnstrust.blogspot.com/

    It appears to be primarily an assertion of copyright protection of the designs by unnamed trusties.
    Perhaps they could be contacted about the design in question.
     
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  5. designnovice
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    designnovice New Member

    Tad and bntii Thank-you for your help. The article and trust site were very informative.

    Athol Burns is a hard man to find information on. The design I've been researching is an ink drawing of the Christina. She was actually built by Bill McQueen the year before the ink drawing was done by Burns. McQueen was also mentioned in the Spencer article.

    It appears that Burns was very close to the group from Roseneath, having been influential in their various yachting/design exploits. The ink drawing was made as a gift for McQueen's 21st Birthday. The drawing is dated 1953 and Christina was built in 1952 which fits into the timeline of Burns' other work.
     
  6. rayman
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    rayman Senior Member

    Athol Burns was a very prolific designer from Wellington New Zealand. Just because you lot have never heard of him does not mean he was a dud.He designed a lot of his larger boats for to handle the notorious Cook Strait weather and conditions, he has been gone many years now. For several years there was a couple of his larger(40+feet) motor sailers in the marina here where I live just north of Brisbane, and a friend in NZ has one of his 36' m/s's. I will try and dig up some pics of her, "Marco Polo" by name. He also designed a lot of the South Island fishing boats.
     
  7. rayman
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    rayman Senior Member

    and for mr. smartarse cutonce both Athol (a christian) and Burns (a particularly common surname) happen to be quite honorable names with Scottish roots not like some of the bizzare ones you mob dump on your kids.
     
  8. MarkNZ
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    MarkNZ Junior Member

    Here is an article on Athol Burns from Bill Endean's excellent book "Classic New Zealand Yachts". I think it answers most of the questions above.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Athol Burns at his home/office at Pembroke Rd in Wellington in 1992 when, at 86 years of age, he designed a 35ft motorsailer for us which is yet to be built. I remember him as an astute gentleman with a quick wit and a mind still as sharp as a pin. He died on May 14th 1999 aged 92 yrs.

    All of his boats were easy on the eye and he has left a legacy of beautiful classic vessels of all types and sizes which are still popular for their lovely lines, good seakeeping abilities and common sense.

    His drawings were as much art as they were building plans and I would agree he shares a commonality with William Garden in this regard.
     

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  9. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Rayman; please do not take offense to the humor posted by some of our members. Neither Cutonce or others intend to demean the memory of Mr. Burns. We had not previously been aware of a designer with a reputation for good work such as his. Discovery was the main thrust of the OP.

    Matter of fact we have a small but important city in our Massachussets colony that has the name Athol..... Athole spelled with an e is a district in Scotland and Athole Brose is a whisky mixed with honey or meal. The word is not uncommon but I have never heard it used as a given name. And yes, you are correct that some of the American given names are rather strange and some are unpronouceable too.

    You might be amused with a stroll through an American marina where you can read boat names that are bizarre. The most appropriate boat name I have heard about is ODTAA. It is said to be the name of a boat that was commissioned by one of your Oz neighbors. It seems that the builder was a layabout and the build took far longer than reasonable. There were all sorts of delays, glitches, and cost over runs. ODTAA was the owners acronym for ....one damned thing after another.
     
  10. Steamfan
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    Steamfan Junior Member

    Athol Burns

    I too had Athol Burns design me a motor sailer -also un-buit as yet. Well respected Wellington NZ based designer of commercial and pleasure boats. All wholesome, mostly easy on the eye and very sea capable. His fishing boats were known for their seakeeping and could stay out working long after the others had sought shelter. I have owned two of his pleasure boats and have attached a pic of my dearly loved -long since sold- 26' cutter. She never developed any nasty helm habits and surprised many bigger boats. Heavily built, she would keep her weigh in the lightest winds.

    I have respected his boats since I was a teenager and it was a pleasure to know him and talk personally. He disliked Endean's book and reckoned that there were a lot of errors.

    He said two things to me in my boat's design process that stuck:
    "There were no hysterics with old time practices"
    "I suppose your sensible enough to want gaff rig with this boat"

    As he aged, he became very grumpy about boat designs and talked about destroying his plans at one stage. Thankfully he didn't. He seemed fed up with the way boat designs were going (aren't we all?)
    I have his obituary which I will post. It is a .eml document and not acceptable in that format to this website. I will have a play with it tonight.
    His niece is beneficial owner and fiercely defends her rights to copyright.
     

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  11. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    Athol is a Scottish name, and although fairly rare these days, I have met the odd one or two. New Zealand had a fair bit of immigration from Scotland, some names that were quite common there as a result (Murray, Grant, e.g.) were much less common in Australia. e.g.
     
  12. Steamfan
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    Steamfan Junior Member

    Athol Burns Obituary

    Here is the obituary as promised. Yes, I guess there are parallels between him and Bill Garden as regards drafting. Athol was an artist no doubt. I'll upload a typical example of a section of one of his drawings.
     

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  13. FranklinRatliff

    FranklinRatliff Previous Member

  14. Steamfan
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    Steamfan Junior Member

    Athol Burns Work

    I meant to point out that he designed the whole gamut of boats from conventional ships, hard chine moderns, through to quite interesting concepts. He was not beyond making models to check things out, often just parts of the boat, but here is an example attributed to him of a pilot boat hull with a traditional look above water but quite an unconventional shape aft. I'm guessing it might have helped with limiting squatting. The model has various hooks along the coamings and I imagine it was used for performance tests.
     

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  15. Steamfan
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    Steamfan Junior Member

    Athol Burns artistry

    Since I promised I'd send a typical Athol Burns drawing, I'll not keep you in suspenders so as to speak.
    The boat is Matahui. A gorgeous 36' motor sailer early '50s design built '55. I fell in love with her in '60 head over heels, like any 13 year old who ever fell in love.... She is still around but a bit weighed down by a 4LW Gardner and with some ugly mods to the coamings. Still around...... Still in love. A few minutes with a chainsaw and a lighter engine......
    I guess a 13 year old these days cut his baby teeth on an Optimist sailing trainer and has no chance of knowing what a decent boat looks like.
    Don't start me off on this tack.
     

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