He clocked in with the same firm for an astonishing 84 years.
Sadly, 98-year-old John Burns has worked his last shift for the law firm he joined at 15.
The grandad from Meadowbank, Edinburgh, died in his sleep last month, shortly after celebrating his birthday.
His time with Edinburgh lawyers TC Young Wilson Terris makes him a contender for title of the world’s longest-serving employee. Guinness World Records says the record for the longest career in the same company is 81 years and 85 days, held by Walter Orthmann from Brazil. But John’s continuous service was broken during the Second World War.
His daughter-in-law Nancy Burns, a nurse, said: “He lived for his job and was often seen running for the bus in the morning.”
John started work with the firm – then called Laird & Wilson Terris – in 1936 aged 14 after passing a test in English and maths. He held a variety of jobs, including office messenger, cashier and legal messenger.
That last job saw him hand-deliver legal documents, bound in ribbon, around the Court of Session.
His son, David, 59, revealed he had gone for two interviews, one with the law firm and the other as a copy boy with a newspaper. He said: “The law firm offered him a place straight away and he took it, but the loss was undoubtedly newspapers’.”
His only time off was when he joined the Royal Air Force as a radio operator in West Africa, listening out for German submarines.
The dad of two and grandad of five was heartbroken when his wife Catherine died from motor neurone disease 12 years ago. He walked 20 miles of the West Highland Way to raise funds for research.
David said: “Dad found the funny side in everything and when life got bad he would shrug his shoulders and say: ‘You’ve got to get on with it.’”
John’s other great passion was football, and he saw his beloved Hibernian finally lift the Scottish Cup for the first time in his lifetime in 2016. “He was ecstatic”, said David. “That was after saying he would never live to see it.”
Every Friday after work he went for a pint or two of Tennent’s in his favourite pub, the Auld Hundred in Edinburgh.
At 90 he climbed Arthur’s Seat, egged on by his grandson Ewan, 19, who said: “Grandad said he would never make it, but as he reached the summit everyone cheered.
“He never wanted to grow old, preferring instead to be eternally upbeat and funny.” Lockdown took him away from the daily routine of work and John reluctantly decided to retire.
“He must have watched every war and western movie during those months in the house and he was not comfortable taking furlough for not working,” said David. “He thrived on the company of other people.”
Nancy revealed that, just two weeks before John died, he told her he thought his time was up. “We were all upset about that and him wanting to retire. His firm even asked him to go part-time, working mornings only, but he insisted. He didn’t live to see his retiral do, and his funeral was restricted because of Covid but we will have a lovely party in his memory in safer times.”
When The Sunday Post approached modest John four years ago, he agreed only after much persuasion to be interviewed. After the story of his eight-decades-long working career went around the world he turned down dozens of other requests for interviews.
His boss, Grant Knight, a partner with TC Young, said: “John was an inspiration to everyone who met him in his 84-year loyal service. Perhaps as he is no longer here to object to the fuss, he can get his well-deserved and posthumous recognition for the world’s longest-serving employee.”
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