Lawrence Wilfred Burt was the sixth child of John Burt and Emma Barnard’s fourteen children. He was born in Rangiora on 9th June 1883. His eldest brother was my great-grandfather Edward John (Ted) Burt*.
He went to live in Sydney where he became a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church in 1917. He succeeded David Tweedie as Regionary Bishop for Australia in 1939.
He married Josephine Mary Sewell in 1917 and separated from her in 1925 and divorced her in 1934, after much-publicised court proceedings. See this website for more on this painful episode in his life.
Burt gave a number of talks over a Theosophical radio station in Sydney, 2GB, and these proved popular with listeners. The talks were compiled into a journal titled “The St. Alban Answer“(2). Radio 2GB was probably broadcast from the Manor at Iluka Road in Mosman, where Burt lived, according to the NSW State Register. The initials stood for Giordano Bruno, a saint. Read more about The Manor here.
His niece, Colleen Burt, recalls visiting her uncle in the 1950s in Sydney. Lawrence sent a copy of the St. Alban Answer to Colleen’s family in Hamilton but her father, Colleen recalls, always threw copies of the journal onto the fire or into the rubbish, unopened and unread (1). Copies are held in the National Library of Australia and in the Theosophical Libraries in New Zealand.
He also published several books, Do the dead suffer? (1939), Is Death the end? (1939) and What is Death? The question of whether the dead suffer – or, as one anxious correspondent asked him, if cremation hurts – arose because Burt and his fellow adherents strongly believed in the existence of a spirit, which survived the physical body and would go on to live in another physical body in the future. Articles in each issue of the “Answer” reveal a preoccupation with aspects of death. The values raised by the Church then gave rise to questions from believers. Burt attempted to answer why God permits children to suffer. Can we communicate with the dead? As the world was witnessing the rise in Fascism in Europe, Burt asked if peace is possible?
*Ted Burt was born in 1877 and one of his daughters was my grandmother Norah Burt, b.1906., who married William Pringle.
Their son was my father Derek Pringle.
Lawrence’s life is well described in a profile on this site.
- Conversation with Colleen Burt, 9th January 2018.
- The St Alban answer monthly journal: texts of radio broadcasts in answers to correspondents with Burt. Issue No.1 was March 1934. This issue, along with issues up to February 1936, are bound together and held at the Library of the NZ Theosophical Society in Marion St, Wellington. Viewed 5/2/2018.