Kathleen Ethel Burne was born in Kensington on 11th May 1879. Her father was Thomas Burne, who worked as a clerk in a colliery in Co. Durham, and her mother was Mary Isabella Burne, nee Simons. The family moved to London in 1864 when Thomas worked for the Civil Service, re-organising the War Office accounts during the Boer War. He then became an Officer's secretary at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Thomas and his wife had several children - Adeline, Godfrey, Cecil and Ormond who went to teach in Germany. One of Thomas and Mary's sons and a grandson became mining engineers. Thomas died on 22nd March 1903.
Kathleen attended boarding school in St Andrews, Fife in 1891 and went on to study at Girton College, Cambridge in 1901. From 1907 until 1925, Kathleen worked as private secretary to Edmund Lamb MP at his estate in Borden Wood, Essex, where she lived at 3 Garden Cottages, Borden Wood. During that time Kathleen helped Edmund Lamb research his book ‘Some Annals of the Lambs: a Border Family’ published in 1926.
Kathleen was a teacher for a time and worked for over 25 years with Father Andrew in Plaistow, East London. She never married. Kathleen's nephew Harold Burne was killed in Palestine on 3rd November 1917.
Kathleen died after an illness aged 80 on 10th June 1959 at the Hostel of God, Clapham Common, but her WIll states her usual residence was Lake Cottage, Bobbolds Farm, Milland, LIPHOOK, West Sussex.
Kathleen's poetry collection "Poems by K.E.B." includes several poems written during the First World War.
Sources: Information kindly supplied by Lesley Young who has carried out extensive research on the life and work of Kathleen, and members of Kathleen's family.
Christmas Eve, 1916 by Kathleen Ethel Burne
The little lamp burns bright; the Babe
Lies in the manger there;
The mother bends above; her hands
Are clasped in praise and prayer;
Her tender face a-light with love
Looks down upon Him there.
This little Child was born, they say,
To save the world from sin.
So still and peaceful lies the scene-
How crept the evil in?
What madness swept across the earth
And plunged the world in sin?
The Shepherds kneel, simple souls,
Beneath the open sky
They learn to read the signs of God
And humbly drawing nigh
They worship here the Sign that flamed
From out the midnight sky.
The Wise Men from the East with gifts
In adoration dumb
Bend low. Stern searchers after truth,
But yet in faith they come:
Before the Mother and the Child
Their restless doubts are dumb.
The gentle large-eyed ox, the ass,
Stand gazing without fear;
The camels through the open door,
and small wild things draw near-
Where all is love and peace and joy,
What room is there for fear?
So sweet and peaceful is the scene-
Ah, whence crept evil in?-
Give peace, O God, to weary hearts
And cleanse our souls from sin !
Stretch forth Thine arms, all-loving God
And draw Thy children in !