Lynn Burke

- Murray Horton

Lynn Burke, who died in Auckland in November 2012, aged 59 (after a long battle with cancer), was a CAFCINZ activist, Committee member and Chairperson way back in the 1970s, i.e. in our very first few years. She had been and gone before we became CAFCA in the mid 80s It saddens me to have to record the death of somebody a couple of years younger than myself; what saddens me even more is that I can find so very little about her life, and therefore can’t do it justice by way of a proper obituary. I hadn’t seen Lynn for decades (she lived overseas and elsewhere in NZ for many years; I don’t know if she ever returned to Christchurch after leaving it in the 80s). My last memory of her is of us marching arm in arm (along with a lot of other people) down the middle of Colombo Street during the 1981 Springbok Tour. I spoke to her once on the phone since then, when I was in Auckland, but I’m not even sure how long ago or how recent that was.

So her life is basically a blank canvas to this would be obituary writer. Lynn didn’t leave a paper trail. As she had been a leading CAFCINZ figure in the 70s, I searched through Watchdogs from that era. But Watchdog was a very modest publication in those days; in that it didn’t include the names of any writers and its reports of CAFCINZ Annual General Meetings were very sparse, with just the names of Committee members or officeholders. It certainly didn’t include photos of anyone. Our Minutes are incomplete from that era and I couldn’t find the ones that would have covered the years when Lynn was one of us. Our membership records were all manual that long ago and I can no longer find any record of Lynn’s membership. I understand that she joined CAFCINZ when she took part in a 1976 protest trip to Comalco’s Bluff smelter but I can’t personally vouch for that, because I wasn’t around then (I spent more than a year overseas in 1975 & 76, living in Sydney and travelling in Papua New Guinea).

SIS File

Fortunately we didn’t need to record our history in those days because the NZ Security Intelligence Service (SIS) was happy to use taxpayers’ money to do it for us (you can read the full story of the SIS file on CAFCINZ/CAFCA in my article “SIS Spied On CAFCA For Quarter Of A Century” in Watchdog 120, May 2009, Because CAFCA was one of the very first organisations (as opposed to individuals) to apply for our SIS file, we got to the SIS before they’d got their act together, and they duly released the file to us complete with whole screeds of names, not to mention a voluminous quantity of gossip and salacious tittle tattle about various third parties, which is the reason why we will not make it publicly available, either in hard copy or electronically. By the time I received my own SIS Personal File, everybody else’s name had been expunged (this was also the experience of numerous other people). So CAFCA’s SIS file is a treasure trove. And sure enough, there are a few mentions of Lynn in it. So this is the first time I’ve ever written an obituary with the SIS file on CAFCINZ/CAFCA as my sole written source.

That whole file is biased, politically hostile and inaccurate in many details (not to mention heavily censored), but it is worth citing, because it is literally the only record that CAFCA has of Lynn’s years of leading involvement with us (she is mentioned in SIS reports covering 1977 & 78), and it provides a fascinating historical record of a period when CAFCINZ was a much less respectable group than staid old CAFCA is now. Lynn Burke (who is also referred to in SIS reports as Lynne Burke, Barbara Lynn/e Burke and B. L. Burke) first appears in a May 1977 report entitled “CAFCINZ – Demonstration Against PBEC* Conference”. She was one among many (including “Horton, Murray Donald” and “Rosenberg, William John”) in a list of people “who were members of a violent protest at the opening of the PBEC Conference at the Christchurch Town Hall…While the presence of up to 200 demonstrators was thought possible it was considered more likely that about 100-140 would turn up. The event proved the forecast wrong. Also wrong was the assessment that the demonstration would consist only of banners, placards, chanting and the like. The violence of the demonstrators also surprised the Police”. *PBEC = Pacific Basin Economic Council.

In the interests of balance, it needs to be pointed out that the violence of the cops also surprised the demonstrators. Several people were arrested, including my then partner Christine Bird, who memorably told me: “I saw a horrible man punching people, so I hit him with my umbrella”. That horrible man in civilian clothes turned out to be a senior cop and she was charged with assaulting him. The magistrate accepted her defence that he was not identified as a cop and that she was reacting to seeing people being attacked. He threw out the charge and ordered the return to her of her flowery umbrella. Chalk one up for the “violent” protestors. It is worth noting that the report lists: ”Source: Christchurch Police”  and that has been underlined, by hand, four times. A separate SIS report on that protest said: “The Police are of the opinion that CAFCINZ (Christchurch) has the potential to use violence and will probably do so in the future”.

Peace Activist

A June 1977 SIS report analyses CAFCINZ’s Annual General Meeting and includes: “Chairwoman Lynne Burke (not yet identified)”. The source is listed as Watchdog: “This is one of 286 copies posted at the CPO (Chief Post Office) Christchurch at 11.00 a.m. on 21.6.77” (Big Brother definitely was watching us and recording how many Watchdogs we posted, where we posted them, and at what time!). A separate report on that 1977 AGM describes: “Lynne Burke. A solo mother, relatively new to CAFCINZ, described as a ‘schoolteacher on the side’”. By October 1977, she had become a leading activist. A report headed “Anti-American Protest” recorded: “CAFCINZ, with Barbara Lynn Burke as the main organiser, is planning to mount a protest demonstration at Lyttelton on the 8th or 9th of October 1977 on the occasion of a visit to the port of a USN (US Navy) destroyer”. As a result she was spied on more closely by the SIS. Her address was one of those listed in a report devoted to the addresses and phone numbers of several CAFCINZ Committee members and activists.

The SIS produced detailed reports on the Christchurch protests against the NZ visit of the US nuclear submarine PIntado in January 1978. A list of those who attended a planning meeting at the People’s Union building is headed by “Burke, Barbara Lynn” (“Rosenberg, William John” and “Horton, Murray Donald” were also there). “A rally opposing the visit…organised by CAFCINZ and CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) was held in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, at 7.30 p.m. on Friday 20 January 1978. The rally had been advertised in the news columns of the Christchurch Star (copy forwarded) and was attended by 60 to 70 people, mostly ‘student types’. Among those present were: Burke, Barbara Lynn… The speakers at the rally were B.L. Burke and M. Tay*. They both spoke on the moral issues involved in the Pintado visit and the consequences of a nuclear accident involving such a vessel. Both made the point that the mere presence of nuclear warships in New Zealand made this country a potential target while such warships were in New Zealand waters and both stressed the fact that the nationality of the ship(s) was of secondary importance, giving the impression that visits by nuclear warships belonging to other countries besides the United States would be opposed also…” (so much, therefore, for “anti-American protest”). “The gathering broke up at about 8.00 p.m., whereupon a number of participants were seen to retire to the nearby United Services Hotel”. The report was accompanied by a copy of the leaflet advertising the rally: “This was received through a covert box number…”. On the Saturday afternoon there was a march from Burnside Park to the US military base at Christchurch Airport (which is still there). “82 persons participated in this march. Among them were: Burke, Barbara Lynn; Horton, Murray Donald….”. What these reports illustrate is the leading role that CAFCINZ played in the anti-nuclear and peace movements of the 1970s, movements that led directly to New Zealand becoming nuclear free by law in 1987 (and remaining so today). And, furthermore, they show the leading role that Lynn Burke played in those movements in Christchurch. *Mia Tay was a leading figure in Christchurch CND and is still a local peace activist.

A March 1978 report has a heading: “Christchurch People’s Union. The PU is closing down and vacating the premises at 9 Ferry Road, Christchurch. The printing presses will be stored at the home of Barbara Lynne Burke at 111 Radley Street, Christchurch 2”. The context of this was that Lynn worked as a printer, both for us, and as a job at that time. The report ends: “Source: CIS, Christchurch”. In handwriting underneath that are the words: “That grand old source!” The glossary of terms in the cover letter to CAFCA from SIS Director Warren Tucker (30/10/08) says that CIS stands for Criminal Intelligence Section, NZ Police. So, the cops were spying on us and reporting to the SIS.

CAFCINZ Chairperson

1978 was the last time that Lynn appeared in our SIS file. There is a very detailed four page report (with 17 sub-sections) on CAFCINZ’s April 1978 “General Meeting” (presumably this means our AGM). “Barbara Lynne Burke” is listed as Chairperson, plus she agreed to take on extra duties to help our then Secretary/Treasurer with “filing and cash”. Subsection 10 is devoted to “Barbara Lynne Burke. Burke impressed Source (identity withheld) as an efficient chairperson. She summarised discussion well, and maintained good control of the meeting, which was, however, conducted on an informal basis throughout”.

I can’t resist this. Subsection 13 was devoted to “Murray Donald Horton. Horton stated that he was leaving ChCh during the first week of May 1978. When asked where he was going, he replied ‘It doesn’t matter’. Horton was one of the main speakers during the meeting, and appeared to ‘like the sound of his own voice’. His mode of speech was coarse throughout, and he continually used obscene language whilst speaking, despite the presence of Burke. Horton interjected continually whilst other speakers had the floor, and at one point spoke out strongly against both capitalism and imperialism, stating that ‘if you support one you end up with the other’”. So, nothing’s changed then in 35 years. I still like the sound of my own voice, interject continually, swear in front of ladies and believe that capitalism and imperialism are intimately interconnected.

Still Alive & Kicking

There was one other SIS report on that 1978 AGM and that constitutes Lynn’s last appearance. “Barbara Lynne Burke was elected in lieu of any other nomination, somewhat reluctantly on her part, as Chairwoman and she will also act as Treasurer. She appeared to be the only one of the organisation with any sense of purpose and the whole organisation appears to be winding down to become a ‘paper group’ which will surface sporadically on less frequent occasions”. How’s that for totally misplaced wishful thinking on behalf of the SIS! Sorry, boys, we’re still going strong and are in better shape than ever (that same report says “the bank balance was stated to be $150…”. We’re definitely doing better than that now).

On the subject of the longevity of CAFCINZ/CAFCA, it is worth quoting that cover letter (30/10/08) to us from SIS Director Warren Tucker. “The demonstrations against PBEC….didn’t do CAFCINZ’s PR image with the Police and NZSIS much good in the early days but it is probably fair to say that there might have been less subsequent NZSIS interest in CAFCINZ if it had not continued with protests against US bases and visiting naval vessels and taken up an active ‘abolish the SIS’ stance. The passage of time has shown however that that CAFCINZ’s wider appeal …to popular suspicion about the intentions of overseas business interests in New Zealand rather than just to the Leftwing causes of the day, has ensured your organisation’s longevity. In any case, it is a new experience for me to be writing, as the Director of one still flourishing organisation, to the Secretary of another – which is also noteworthy from our perspective as the only one that called for the liquidation of the NZSIS that has not joined the others dedicated to that cause on (to use the late VI Lenin’s term), the “rubbish-heap of history!”. Following our receipt of this letter, Bill Rosenberg was rather surprised to be contacted at work by somebody else from the SIS (it is an offence to identify any SIS member other than the Director) saying that Tucker had quoted the wrong dead Communist icon and that he had meant Leon Trotsky rather than Lenin, and was most anxious to get these things right.

These individual SIS reports are full of fascinating stuff and there are a couple of other points worth mentioning from their coverage of CAFCINZ’s 1978 AGM. Subsection 7 is headed: ”Unidentified Male Present. A male aged about 35, 5’ 10” in height, clean shaven, short hair and neatly dressed, who was present at the meeting, was viewed with suspicion by all present as ‘an SIS plant’. He took little part in the meeting”. Subsection 4 is headed: “Murray Donald Horton. Horton is leaving New Zealand ‘soon’ to visit Owen Ronald Wilkes* in Oslo and he will stay with Phil Amos (ex-Labour Party Minister of Education) in Tanzania on his way back to New Zealand. He will take over as Secretary of CAFCINZ on his return. Comment: Horton has given notice of resignation from the New Zealand Railways and finishes there on 9 June 1978. An enquiry at Air New Zealand failed to show any booking Horton may have made through them. Of course, he could well be booked with any other airline”. How very interesting to have confirmed that the SIS was spying on me via my employer and was closely monitoring my international travel. *My obituary of Owen Wilkes is in Watchdog 109, August 2005, Both Owen and Phil Amos were highlights of that particular world trip.

So Lynn joins the list of CAFCA/CAFCINZ Committee colleagues (and friends) for whom I’ve had to write obituaries. You can read Reg Duder’s one in Watchdog 117, April 2008,; and Ray Scott’s in Watchdog 121, August 2009, But Reg and Ray were 20 years older than Lynn (and I was two years older than her), which makes her death especially untimely. They were also on the CAFCA Committee decades after she had been on the CAFCINZ one. As I’ve already said, my last political memory of her is of us marching arm in arm down the middle of Colombo Street during the 1981 Springbok Tour. I also remember that she introduced me to one of her workmates and that he marched arm in arm with us that day (along with several thousand others). I remembered his name, because he’s been a CAFCINZ/CAFCA member since 1979 and a pledger since 1991 to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account (which exists solely to provide my income). I rang him as part of my research for this, speaking to him for the first time since 1981, and he immediately remembered both that march and Lynn (we were going to the former Lancaster Park, apparently). He told me that he and Lynn both worked at Caxton Press (“Wolfie Rosenberg* used to come there on his Solex to see us about Monthly Review”); and that Lynn introduced him to both CAFCINZ and Watchdog (which led to him helping to pay my wage for the past 22 years). So, thank you, Lynn. I offered to include that in her obituary with his name omitted but he insisted that I include his name. So, Tony Petrie, thank you also! Good on you, mate. *My obituary of Wolfgang Rosenberg is in Watchdog 114, May 2007, My obituary of Monthly Review, which was printed for many years at Caxton Press, is in Watchdog 84. May 1997,

One Of Us

The CAFCINZ Committee was, and the CAFCA Committee is, predominantly male (this is the first obituary I’ve had to write for a female Committee colleague). I have already mentioned my former partner Christine Bird, a CAFCINZ founder who was responsible for us changing our title to CAFCA. She went on to become our Chairperson in the 80s, before moving to Australia in 1987. The other women who have been on the Committee are Terry Moon, Ann Currie, Liz Griffiths and, currently, Colleen Hughes and Lynda Boyd. So, Lynn Burke was part of a small and select group. Indeed, Lynn was part of an even smaller group within those women – as already mentioned in one the SIS reports cited above, she was a solo mother (Colleen is the only other one in that category). During the whole time Lynn was on the Committee she had her primary school-aged son Arrum with her; he was a regular attendee at our meetings and activities. And it was a whole different world in the 70s – the Domestic Purposes Benefit had only just come into existence in 1973 (I don’t know if Lynn was ever on it, as she regularly worked), and the official language had only just changed from referring to “unmarried” mothers and “illegitimate” children. So Lynn faced more than the usual obstacles to being a political activist nearly 40 years ago.

And, I’m sorry to say, that’s all I know about her. I don’t even know the basics such as where she came from, let alone anything about her personal life (it was only in 2013 that I learned that she had a second child, a daughter, years younger than Arrum. Tragically Lynn died just months before the birth of Arrum’s first child, her first grandchild). For a few years in the 1970s and into 80s we were political colleagues. We socialised together (indeed the only photo I could find of her in my historic personal collection was in an envelope marked “Parties”); for a brief period in the 70s we were even half-pie flatmates, because Lynn used to stay sometimes with her then partner who was a flatmate in a house where a group of us lived together. She had a political life outside CAFCINZ – in the 70s she was heavily involved with the food coop at the Resistance Bookshop and Action Centre (which became the People’s Union referred to in the SIS reports above). She was involved with publishing Hersay, a Christchurch feminist paper, in the late 70s and early 80s.

Bill Rosenberg saw her as recently as 2011, when she was in Wellington (she told him that she’d come back to NZ the previous year for Arrum’s wedding, after 20 years overseas). “She was apparently involved in a movement called ‘Transition Towns’ in the UK and was interested in doing similar things here. She got some work running workshops and other community consultation I think, but… it was very hand-to-mouth”. Bill gave his memories of her: “She was a quiet, self-effacing but determined and reliable activist who kept at it and always played a strong and practical role. I had a lot of respect for her”. I contacted Arrum to ask for his help in researching this. I’d last seen him when he was a pre-teenage kid (he’s now in his early 40s). He assured me that, right up until the premature end of her life, “Mum wanted to save the world”. That’s good to know, and her time as a leading figure in CAFCINZ all those years ago was part of that. Rest in peace, Lynn, you were one of us when we were all so much younger.

Many Political & Social Causes

I am indebted to Lynn’s son, Arrum Stones, for compiling this brief summary of his late mother’s political life.

“…As for her on-going political involvement, if you can think of it, she’s probably been involved. However, in an attempt to give you some sort of ordered summary, here’s what I’ve found or know of:

“Education – Starting with Tamariki, the alternative school she sent me to in Christchurch. Democratic and alternative education continued to be a prominent focus for her. My half-sister Iva also went to a free school in Devon. She was active on school boards, and with various groups trying to promote the free-school model in the UK….

“CND – She was an active campaigner for CND in our time in the UK in the 80s. She camped at Greenham Common*, and got in to as much trouble as she could generally. She was always arranging funding and printing flyers and leaflets for any sort of anti-Establishment, anti-war, anti-Big Business organisation she could connect with. *The famous 1980s’ Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, which protested the basing of US Cruise missiles in Britain. MH.

“Gaia/Organics/Environmental – After she contracted hepatitis, and her first bout with cancer, she became more interested in, and involved with, free range, GE-free farming. Both from an environmental and health benefits perspective, as well as from her opposition to Big Business and control of crops. While I don’t know if she was ever a member of Greenpeace (though I think she was), she was certainly a supporter. She was involved with a GE-free/organic farm and market while she was in Devon, as both a retail store manager and an administrator and organiser.

“Among the various books, pamphlets, letters, and other detritus I came across in her records, you could identify communications with indigenous peoples groups, education reform groups, animal rights groups, women’s rights groups, political reform groups, anti-free trade groups, etc, et al. Even the notes she was writing in the days prior to her death were to do with health care reform, patient/doctor relationships, the influence of the drug companies, elderly care, and more besides”.

“A Really Lovely Person”

And this, from Tony Webster, my close friend since our 1960s’ schooldays, and a long time CAFCA member (Tony knew Lynn as a fellow solo parent in the 70s and 80s - both were raising a son - and through their mutual involvement in Tamariki School):

“Lynn was interested in alternative education and was a staunch advocate and supporter of it throughout the 70's-80's which was when Arrum attended Tamariki School in Christchurch, one of NZ's few alternative primary schools at the time and certainly one of the very few, if not the only one, that is still in operation today. She believed in what was then called the 'free school' movement… What I remember personally about Lynn was that she was a really lovely person, warm and great to talk with, with lots of passionate causes and ideas but a really wonderful sense of humour as well…”.


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