Alan Burns, 4th Baron Inverclyde

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John Alan Burns, 4th Baron Inverclyde, K.St.J (12 December 1897 – 17 June 1957), the son of James Cleland Burns, 3rd Baron Inverclyde of Castle Wemyss and Charlotte Mary Emily Nugent-Dunbar, he was educated at Eton College, Eton, Berkshire and The Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Berkshire. Joining The Scots Guards, he was wounded by a German bullet while going 'over the top' in France. He reached the rank of Lieutenant in the First World War and served as a Captain with The Scots Guards in the Second World War.

As a subaltern in the Scots Guards he fought in France until wounded by a bullet through the palm of one hand. Gangrene impeded swift healing, but at last he was ready to return to the front and confided in a friend that if he had to die for it, he would try to win a decoration for gallantry in action to make his father proud of him. But instead of being sent overseas he was shunted into a "cushy' job at the War Office.

Burns succeeded to the title of 4th Baron Inverclyde on 16 August 1919 and was invested as a Knight, Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (K.St.J.) and was admitted to The Royal Company of Archers.

He married, firstly, Olive Sylvia Sainsbury, daughter of Arthur Sainsbury, millionaire owner of a large chain of grocery shops, on 23 November 1926. They divorced in Scotland in 1928. Secondly he married June Howard-Tripp, daughter of Walter Howard-Tripp, on 21 March 1929. As simply 'June', she had been a well established star of revue and silent films, but gave up her showbusiness career on marriage, although this too was to end in divorce, in 1933.

Alan Burns published a memoir of two cruises: in his steam yacht the "Sapphire" to India and Malaya in 1924/5 and in the "Beryl" around the Mediterranean in 1929. Entitled Porpoises and People, it was published in 1930. Although in part dedicated to his wife ('Topsy' in the book), in her own memoirs, June states that Burns never told her or anyone else he was writing it.

Inverclyde was on board the RMS Lancastria when she was sunk off St. Nazaire on 17 June 1940. He was rescued by the crew of HMT Cambridgeshire, a 443-ton anti-submarine trawler, which had been requisitioned by the navy in August 1939, she was then given a 4 inch gun, machine guns and depth chargers, she herself surviving the war and, after returning to peacetime trawling in 1945 as the Kingstone Sapphire, was scrapped in 1954.

After returning to England, Lord Inverclyde presented each of his rescuers with a round rosewood box full of cigarettes, each box with an engraved silver plaque, each individually named and then given the wording "...HMS Cambridgeshire St. Nazaire to Plymouth 17 to 19 June 1940 from a grateful passenger Inverclyde/Scots Guards".

Not having inherited any business acumen from his immediate forebears he eschewed the idea of taking an active role in the running of The Cunard Steamship Company and preferred instead the pleasant job of aide-de-camp to the Governor of Gibraltar. Inverclyde became a Lieutenant in the Reserve of Officers, and in 1922 was Assistant Private Secretary, in an unpaid capacity, to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

After leaving his regiment he retired into private life as master of Wemyss and man-about-town with a bachelor flat in Mayfair. He acquired hunters, a yacht, a grouse moor.

During the winter he rode with the Eglinton in Ayrshire; in the early summer months he cruised the Mediterranean; in the late summer and early autumn he shot grouse. His civic duties were not obligatory and, according to his second wife, June, he never took more than cursory interest in local matters. He did, however, endow two public buildings which remain in use: the Inverclyde National Sports Training Centre at Largs and the Inverclyde Centre in Greenock as a British Sailors Society home, now used by the local authority's homeless persons unit.

Lord Inverclyde died on 17 June 1957, at the age of 59, without issue, the title becoming extinct on his death. The name Inverclyde was however resurrected in the early 1970s for the new local authority district centred on Greenock, a creation of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. The local newspaper, the Greenock Telegraph, said that the name "would in a way be a tribute to a man whose interest in the area was always constant" [sic].[1] Inverclyde remains as a Scottish council area.

Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Burns
Baron Inverclyde
1919 – 1957


  1. ^ Greenock Telegraph editorial, 5 July 1973
  • Lord Inverclyde, Porpoises and People, Halton & Truscott Smith 1930
  • June Tripp, The Whole Story. (autobiography). 1932
  • June Tripp, The Glass Ladder. (autobiography). 1960