Keeping Burns alive in the USA

Former Burntisland woman Wendy Hurley gears up for battle to raise the profile of Robert Burns in Phoenix seen in the background.
Former Burntisland woman Wendy Hurley gears up for battle to raise the profile of Robert Burns in Phoenix seen in the background.
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A FORMER Burntisland woman who fought and beat cancer is now planning a new battle – to raise the profile of Robert Burns in the USA.

Wendy Hurley (65), who was born in Kirkcaldy and spent her early years in Burntisland, is now living in Phoenix, Arizona.

And it’s there that the former air stewardess has taken over the reins in planning the local Caledonian Society’s tributes to Scotland’s National Bard.

Wendy’s first task was in organising this year’s Burns supper which attracted 100 guests, but she feels this is only a small proportion of the local population who would be interested.

She said: “We have our annual games this month (March 24 and 25) and I plan this as the launching pad for a campaign to raise the poet’s profile and stimulate more interest.”

Wendy is a former pupil of Dollar Academy and still has friends and relatives in Burntisland.

Her father Wilfred Cook, was chief engineer on a ship, and she was taken to Japan in her teens when he worked for Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.

Wendy spent four years living in Nagasaki - the site of the second atom bomb of World War II – and she blames her time there for the start of her cancer developing.

She said: “I was living less than a mile from the centre of the explosion but I also blame the smoke filled cabins of the aircraft when I was a stewardess with Pan Am.”

But she added: “When I was told I had cancer I was determined to fight it - it did result in the loss of half a lung but I haven’t looked back since the surgery.”

She has lived in Phoenix for four years now and is an enthusiast of her Scottish background.

But she said: “One of the problems facing the many Scottish societies throughout the US is that the older people who carry on the tradition are becoming fewer and the younger people just don’t seem to show the same interest.

“My aim is to bring in more young blood and to make Burns and the celebrations attractive to them.”