Teacher extraordinaire, Mentor and Former President of English Speaking Union
It is with great sadness that friends and colleagues at English Speaking Union-Mauritius have heard of the passing, on 16 November 2021, of yet another ESU stalwart and beacon of light, Prem Burton, not long after the demises of former ESU Presidents, Sanjit Teelock and Sir Victor Glover. Mr Burton became a member of the ESU in 1996 and worked tirelessly as its dedicated President from 2013 to 2016. Until recently, he remained on the Executive Committee in spite of his illness. Throughout his ESU career, Mr Burton was vigilant, rigorous, forward-looking, and never short of innovative ideas.
For the last five years, he has been ESU’s Mentor, happy to be consulted, willing to listen to others’ opinions, and ready to lend sound advice. For his immense contribution, ESU will be eternally grateful. Humility was one of Mr Burton’s shining qualities; when addressed by me as “Mr Burton” – for he had been my venerated English Teacher in the 1960s at RCC, appointed by the Rector, Mr Bullen, “to serve them all his days” – he would correct me by gently whispering: “Call me Prem!” And I did and he became my friend and advisor at ESU, as Plato was to Socrates. It brought him great joy to host our ESU sub-committee meetings at his home; those were gleesome and fruitful gatherings when we were subtly shown the way ahead by a wise, yet polite and gentle man with an unimpeachable knowledge of English Language and Literature. During such meetings, our charming hosts, Mr and Mrs Burton would proudly show us their resplendent and lovingly-tendered garden – “Nature to advantage dressed” (Alexander Pope). We shall all miss such occasions.
For his numerous students who drank from the fountain of knowledge over the years, his passing will be an equally great loss. He was born to teach and light up a spark in learners’ minds; in this dark hour, shortly after members of the English Speaking Union received news of his passing, we his friends and colleagues, former and present students could only recall the good times and Prem’s benevolence and goodwill towards others. Above all, Prem Burton will be remembered as a man who, through ESU, and his teaching career, “mobilized the English Language” to promote genuine fellowship, and high standards, among his fellow countrymen, just as Winston Churchill, an early Chairman of ESU International, had done from 1921 to 1925.
To Mrs Madhur Burton and her entire family, all Members of English Speaking Union-Mauritius would like to express their deepest condolences.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember [him].” (Laurence Binyon)
Professor Marc Serge Rivière
* Published in print edition on 19 November 2021
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