Kevin F Burke
Kevin Burke who died on July 8th was born in Sandymount, Dublin, in July 1925. He was educated at Blackrock College up to his leaving Certificate. He then attended University College Dublin where he studied Commerce. While studying at UCD some of his contemporaries were ex-Taoisigh (Prime Ministers) Garret Fitzgerald and Charlie Haughey and he retained a close friendship with Garret up to his death in 2011.While at UCD, he was a regular debater at the Literary and Historical Debating Society and eventually was elected auditor of that Society. It is fairly certain that his negotiating skills and his wide command and usage of the English language were honed by the cut and thrust of debates at the L&H. On leaving UCD Kevin joined the accountancy firm Finlay Mulligan, who administered the exports of seed potatoes from Ireland for the Irish Potato Merchants Association (IPMA). Kevin assisted in that work and for the rest of his working life up to his retirement in 1990, he was directly involved in the export of seed potatoes from Ireland. Seed potatoes had been exported from Ireland from the mid 1920’s.In 1931, the Irish Department of Agriculture introduced legislation bringing a quality control regime to the production and export of seed potatoes including the licensing of potato exporters. At the time, the exports were mainly to the UK. These exports were promoted by Horace Aves Potato Manager for F.W. Strickland of Hastings, whose two sons, Harold and Bernard, were also involved in seed potatoes. Harold became managing Director of Cullen Allen of Belfast and Bernard became MD of Strickland Potatoes of Hastings. Bernard is still with us at the ripe old age of 90. RW Green of Wistech, Johnson and J&J Cunningham of Liverpool also were traders in Irish seed Potatoes.When World War II ended in 1945, trade in seed potatoes began to open up and prices were quite high. For this reason, the Association (IPMA) retained some of the price received in a fund to be paid out in years of low prices. With a change of Government in 1948 the new Minister for Agriculture, James Dillon, was anxious that this system should continue. In February 1950 The Irish Potato Marketing Company was established. The Minister gave the new company an administrative monopoly of the export of seed potatoes and he nominated 2 of his staff to the board. Denis Delaney (DD) became the first General Manager, Edward McGovern the first Chairman and Kevin Burke became Denis Delaney’s assistant. Kevin and Denis were very conscious of supporting the Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture in maintaining and improving the health status of Irish Seed. In 1955 they persuaded Dr. McKay, Professor of Plant Pathology at UCD, to publish the book “Diseases of Potatoes” funded by IPM.From 1950 onwards, Kevin and Denis promoted Irish seed successfully in the UK and Mediterranean area. Denis stepped down in 1963 and Kevin became General Manager. He then appointed a Marketing Manager and the exports continued to expand up to its peak in 1970. In the earlier years the main varieties exported were Arran Banner, Arran Consul, King Edward, Majestic, Upto Dale, Arran Pilot, Home Guard and others. From the mid-sixties on, new higher yielding varieties began to appear from breeding stations in Europe, Pentland Fields and Cambridge. These varieties e.g. Desiree, Spunta, Nicola, Pentland Crown and Maris Peer began to replace existing varieties. So that IPM could have new varieties an agreement was reached between Kevin Burke and Oakpark Research Centre, Co Carlow (P.J. O’Hare – Director, Harry Kehoe – Breeder) whereby IPM underpinned the cost of the breeding programme and had exclusivity of varieties from the programme. The first of these varieties was the very successful Cara followed later by Rooster among others.The trade association for the English seed potato merchants was ‘The National Association of Seed Potato Merchants’ (NASPM). Kevin for many years was elected to its council. He was elected president of NASPM for the period 1980-1983 and again in 1997-98. He was honoured with life membership of both NASPM and BPTA. He was highly respected within the organisation and within Council because of his meticulous attention to detail in dealing with the work of the council. He enjoyed the Annual Dinners in London and relished the company of many ex-Presidents, Leslie Baker, Charlie Burnett, Manton Baxter, Michael Strickland, John Langlands, Robert Beeson, Christopher Baker et al and of course the inimitable secretary Freddie Tranair and David Fradd. Kevin was held in high regard by the importers in Mediterranean countries. He was a commanding figure and was seen to be totally fair minded. When Ireland joined the E.E.C., the European seed potato merchants formed an association (Europatat) and Kevin was elected as one of its Vice-Presidents.
Gregory was born. He later married his beloved Helen Binchy from Charleville, Co. Cork, with whom he had two children, Katie and Sara. Helen was a distinguished member of the Academic staff of UCD. She was a first cousin of Maeve Binchy, the internationally renowned novelist who has regrettably also died recently. Kevin was a man of commanding presence. He liked goodBecause of the expansion of contacts with Europe and the need to have a representative body in Ireland, Kevin was the prime mover in establishing the Irish Potato Federation and was its chairman for many years, even after his retirement from IPM.
Kevin retired as General Manager of IPM in 1990 after 42 years in the potato trade. During his life he was always dedicated to his work and in his retirement he remained busy. He was an ardent follower of the sport of Kings and attended many of the race meetings in Ireland. In his college days he and others, including Garret Fitzgerald, had formed a wine tasting club. He became expert on the different wines and grape varieties and often enjoyed consuming the product.
Kevin was very devoted to his family. Kevin’s first wife Louise Rickard died when their son Gregory was born. He later married his beloved Helen Binchy from Charleville, Co. Cork, with whom he had two children, Katie and Sara. Helen was a distinguished member of the Academic staff of UCD. She was a first cousin of Maeve Binchy, the internationally renowned novelist who has regrettably also died recently. Kevin was a man of commanding presence. He liked goodBecause of the expansion of contacts with Europe and the need to have a representative body in Ireland, Kevin was the prime mover in establishing the Irish Potato Federation and was its chairman for many years, even after his retirement from IPM.
food, good wine and good conversation. Above all, he will be remembered for his total hone food, good wine and good conversation. Above all, he will be remembered for his total honesty, his unwavering integrity and for his patience with staff and customers alike. At the age of 87, many of his contemporaries had shed their mortal coil but a sign of the esteem in which he was held was the large gathering at the removal of his remains and his subsequent funeral.
We offer our sincere sympathies to Helen, Gregory, Katie and Sara.