Jim McBurney worked as radio operator in the Merchant Navy during the early and middle 20th century.

1901 – 1969

Our portrait of the McBurney family talks about a branch that had a short, but distinguished career in the Merchant Navy. Both Archie McBurney and his son Jim were radio operators in the Merchant Navy during the early and middle twentieth century respectively.

Theirs is a profession that of today does not exist. From January 31st 1999, international regulations changed, and ships were no longer required to transmit the SOS signal in Morse code during an emergency. February 1st 2000 saw the Global Marine Distress and Safety System or GMDSS become the new standard for vessels at sea, making the officer post of radio operator redundant, and the story of Jim and Archie McBurney all the more valuable.

Archie started his career in the hustle and bustle of the Workman-Clark shipyard in Belfast. He eventually decided that he would prefer a career on ships, rather than building them and completed his PMG or Postmaster General Certificate in 1919 and subsequently joined the Merchant service as a radio operator. After he retired from the Merchant Navy, Mr and Mrs McBurney started a guesthouse and shop that they operated in the village for many years.

Their son Jim enlisted in the Merchant Navy in 1950, and worked like his father as a radio operator for around fifteen years. He served on vessels all around the world, but particularly enjoyed his time on the vessels of the New Zealand Shipping Company. After returning to Mourne briefly, he worked in the retail radio field and in the B/E Aerospace factory in Kilkeel. Afterwards he returned to Australia where he had spent time during his Merchant Navy career and lives there to the present day.