Dr Robert Burgess – obituary

Mid-Ulster Mail – Saturday 15 December 1928



The death of Dr Burgess, which took place on Monday at his residence, Coagh, after a prolonged illness, removes an outstanding personality from our district. Coming to Coagh as a young doctor in 1876, he was appointed dispensary doctor in the room of Mr King Kerr, and for half a century he carried out his duties to the entire satisfaction of everyone, and particularly the poor. During that long period there was never reason for any complaint, and his sound judgement gained for him a wide practice. As the years went on he became, more and more, the man to whom all looked for advice in difficulty and a lead when anything required to be undertaken. To mention one example, when the Creamery movement began it was Dr Burgess whom, with one consent, the dairy farmers desired to become President of the Co-operative Society, though he was not directly interested, and under his wise guidance it became very successful. As a magistrate he tempered justice with mercy: knowing so much of the circumstances of the people who came before him, he was better able than most of his colleagues on the Bench to not only get at the merits but to decide what was best to be done in each case. For a number of years past he has been a Grand Juror of County Tyrone. A loyal Presbyterian and a thorough Unionist, neither his religious nor his political views made the slightest difference in his relations to the people amongst whom he lived and worked; his popularity was universal.

Dr Robert Burgess JP (1852-1928) from a drawing by Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples

Dr Burgess retired from the dispensary in the 48th year of his work, in August 1923, and was succeeded by Dr Archer Brown, but he continued his previous mode of work until his last illness. He leaves a widow, two sons, and three daughters to mourn his loss.

The funeral was private. The Rev DH Hanson MA, of Larne, and the Rev JJ Wright BA, MC, of Ahorey, former ministers of Ballygoney, came to pay a tribute to an old and leading member of that congregation. Rev J Entrican BA conducted the usual services, and other clergymen present were the Rev R Morrow BA, Coagh; Rev R McCammon BA, Lecumber; Rev FH Kinch MA, rector of Tamlaght, and the Rev P Donnelly PP, Coagh.

The chief mourner was Dr Charles Burgess (son), who, with Messrs H Duff JP; HE Thompson MBE, JP, and WJ Blackstock, carried the coffin to the hearse. Mr William Leeper DL represented the District Council, and Mr John Glasgow JP, the Board of Guardians, for whom deceased had worked so long. Dr CHPD Graves, Cookstown; Dr Elliott, Cookstown, and Dr Brown were also present, and among other friends were Col WA Lenox-Conyngham DSO DL; Messrs Rowley Elliott MP; JJ Speirs JP; Thomas Ferguson JP; William Ekin JP; JH Cowan, John Greer, John Arbuthnot, William Ferguson, SR Magill, Ulster Bank; TA Ekin, Belfast Bank.



At the Coagh Petty Sessions on Tuesday the chairman, Colonel WA Lenox-Conyngham DSO DL, referring to the death of Dr Burgess JP, said that the Bench had sustained a great loss, and the whole countryside had lost a great friend and a grand gentleman. There was no one whom he (the chairman) knew who had been so much respected as a doctor and as a magistrate.

Mr Rowley Elliott MP said it was well-known to all present that one of their oldest and most respected magistrates had passed away. With one exception, he thought, Dr  Robert Burgess had been perhaps the longest-appointed magistrate to adjudicate on the Coagh Bench, and his magisterial colleagues felt that they had sustained an irreparable loss. They therefore desired to place on record their appreciation of the great services he had rendered to the community in his capacity as a Justice of the Peace. His judgements were in all cases tempered with mercy, and his colleagues would miss his wise counsel and advice. To his bereaved widow and family they tendered their sincere and heartfelt sympathy, and would ask the clerk to convey this message to them. Mr Elliott added that the Court, after dealing with a case which had been previously adjourned and for which a witness from Belfast was now present, proposed to adjourn the business as a mark of respect to the memory of Dr Burgess.

District-Inspector Hall said that he had known Dr Burgess for about ten years. He was a most kindly man – a man whom it was ever a pleasure to meet, and a friend to the poor.

The clerk, Mr Robert Pattleton, associated himself with the expressions of condolence.

Mr HR Jones LLD RM, who was not attending the Petty Sessions, sent by telegram the following message of sympathy: “Please have my sincere sorrow for Dr Burgess’ lamentable death expressed at the Bench today.”

Dr Robert Burgess (seated left) pictured in 1920

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