Brian Burnie and the Bluebell Bus on the 7,000-mile walk
Brian Burnie and the Bluebell Bus on the 7,000-mile walk Image: Daft as a Brush

Brian Burnie is a Newcastle based businessman and philanthropist primarily known for establishing the cancer support service Daft as a Brush. Mr Burnie is a successful entrepreneur. Having left school without any qualifications aged 15, he progressed from being a grocery delivery boy, to a builder’s apprentice with builder John Laing, to a trained engineer. In 1979, Brian and a partner started Kelburn Holdings in Newcastle. Originally the firm operated as an engineering business but later turned into a recruitment specialist as that area of the business grew rapidly. In 1993, he bought Doxford Hall in Northumberland from Northumberland County Council and turned it into a luxury hotel and spa. He sold the business in 2010 and, a year later, he established “Daft as a Brush” Cancer Patient Care with an initial donation of £16 million following his wife’s diagnosis with cancer.

What is particularly notable about Mr Burnie’s philanthropy is that he has donated almost the entirety of his fortune to build “Daft as a Brush”. In a recent interview with BBC Radio 2, he said:

“You become a servant of your possessions… but the real pleasure is in sharing your wealth when you’re alive.”

He observed that his giving had “...opened many doors, that weren’t open before.” Prior to establishing “Daft as a Brush”, he had a track record of involvement in charitable endeavours in the region for 40 years. In 1989 he helped organise the world's biggest children's party on the Town Moor in Newcastle, which brought together 120,000 people. The event raised more than £260,000 for the Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital.

“Daft as a Brush” offers patient transport for cancer patients and operates a fleet of over 20 vehicles. It has grown to become one of the region’s most successful charities, attracting almost £400,000 in donations in 2016. Mr Burnie is still the driving force behind its success. He set out in 2018 to walk the 7000-mile coastal path around the UK, aiming to raise £4 million for the charity. Brian hopes monies raised from the tour will fund the national rollout of the Daft as a Brush model.


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