Date
14 December 2017
Brian and Shirley Burnie in happier times outside their multi-million-dollar estate. The couple divorced in 2012 after he gave the family fortune to charity. Photo: Mail Online
Brian and Shirley Burnie in happier times outside their multi-million-dollar estate. The couple divorced in 2012 after he gave the family fortune to charity. Photo: Mail Online

Why charity stopped at home for this British millionaire

Charity can be too much of a good thing and perhaps no one understands this better than Brian Burnie.

But the former British multi-millionaire is unrepentant.

Burnie, who once owned a £16 million (US$26 million) mansion, lives off his pension in a small flat and drives a battered car.

How did he get to this? 

Burnie, 70, pledged to dedicate his life to helping women with breast cancer after his wife Shirley was diagnosed with the disease.

He gave millions away to the fight against cancer to a point where his wife of 30 years got fed up with him parting with everything the family had worked for, according to Mail Online.

That led to divorce in 2012.

“I’m sick of bloody charity and the hard work – we all are. I didn’t want to give everything away. We needed a home and an income and we have three children. I wanted security for us and our family.”

After building successful businesses in construction and recruitment, Burnie turned his 10-acre Northumberland estate into a £16 million luxury hotel and spa.

But a decade ago, after his wife was diagnosed with cancer, Burnie began to focus on charity. At their 1981 wedding, he insisted they ask for donations to charity instead of presents.

In 2009, he sold the hotel and used all the money to fund a fleet of cars to ferry rural patients to hospital as part of his charity, Daft As A Brush, the report said.

He moved his family to a tiny rented house opposite a council estate.

Burnie’s charity took over his life, becoming more important than anything else to him, Shirley said.

“I had enough money to set them up for life, but I think that would be wrong,” he said. “Your children have to make their own way.”

Asked if he kept anything for himself he said: “Nothing. I live off my pension – even that goes to the charity when I die.”

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RC/RA

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