Malcolm Burke a Coquetdale creative who is at the heart of the community

Malcolm Burke. Picture by Katie ScottMalcolm Burke. Picture by Katie Scott
Malcolm Burke. Picture by Katie Scott
An occasional series of portraits of Creative Coquetdale Folk by Katie Scott.

Malcolm Burke is a Coquetdale Creative who adds a great deal to our community. He has always interspersed his working life with creativity in the forms of music, pottery, copperwork and husbandry.

He drives the UCCT bus to help seniors with their shopping, teaches archery, leads a ‘mindfulness’ class and is a stalwart of the annual Harbottle Show, creating the website supporting it.Born next to the river Tyne, in Walker, Malcolm left school in 1973 and moved to Coventry for an apprenticeship in electronic engineering. It was an exciting time.

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“I was working on the first digital telephone exchange – it seems archaic now – but at the time it was the forefront of technology,” he said.

Malcolm’s final post, before retiring, was as senior manager in a subsea engineering company.

Like all engineers, he enjoys seeing how things work.

His workroom is full of interesting items; such as clocks, and a collection of valve radios which he has restored.

After marrying Pauline, and the arrival of two children, the family bought a 17-acre small holding in Wales, “we wanted to try The Good Life”.

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Here they made friends with Ceri Rhys Matthews and Julie Murphy of the Welsh folk band ‘Fernhill’.

He said: “They were key figures in the renaissance of Welsh musical traditions, and I learnt so much from them both.”

Malcolm was intrigued with the Welsh pipes and learned to play them; then later the Northumbrian pipes, inspired by Kathryn Tickell.His first instrument, however, was bought for him on his 35th birthday, by Pauline.

Knowing how much he admired the music of Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull); she chose a flute. Malcolm is now an excellent flautist. He is also enjoying learning the saxophone.Returning to the North East, they settled in Sharperton in 2001.

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Later, retirement gave Malcolm the freedom to develop his musical skills.

“This is such a journey, and I never want to stop learning all these things; being creative,” he said.

His love of learning led him to seek out lessons from such disparate locals as Richard Johnstone (Northumberland Ranters) and Rod Clements (Lindisfarne).

Studying jazz improvisation in Newcastle’s Jazz Co-op is Malcolm’s latest challenge, which he is thoroughly enjoying. Malcolm plays in several Coquetdale bands, and has supported artists at Rothbury Roots. He plans to form a jazz trio.

At the moment he is busy with preparations for Harbottle Show. Malcolm organises the music stage. A great line-up includes Hannah Lamb, The CCC Steelband, and many more. See

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