George Burton, the founder and Principal of Aegean Sailing School, sadly passed away in York at the end of February after a short illness.
George was a man with a big heart and big personality. He first learned to sail in the Sea Cadets and qualified to skipper open boats by the time he was 12 years old. He joined the Royal Navy as a boy sailor at 14 and served for over 30 years, mainly as a military diver and mine clearance expert, although he also worked in fishery protection and took part in the ‘Cod War’.. He instructed in diving, sailing, and boat-handling, including working with the Special Forces.
The Falklands War in 1982 was a major event in George’s life. He was part of what became known as the ‘Forgotten Squadron‘. When the war broke out the Navy did not have minesweepers capable of travelling to the South Atlantic. They requisitioned six deep sea trawlers from Hull and rapidly installed rudimentary mine-sweeping equipment. George sailed on the Northella, one of these converted trawlers, in what was called the 11th MCM Squadron. You can read more about the squadron here. George is on the far right in the photograph below.
Towards the end of his naval career George was based at HMS Camperdown in Dundee where he trained a team of divers from the Royal Naval Reserve. Many of his trainees have remained friends over the years and one of them spoke movingly at his funeral.
Upon leaving the Navy George built and ran an oyster farm just north of Oban on the west coast of Scotland. He was also a major force in setting up the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group, selling premium Scottish shellfish to major supermarkets and top-class restaurants.
He came to Greece with Melody, his wife, in 2001, initially intending just to sail for a couple of years. They decided to remain for the 2004 Athens Olympics but had to find a way to earn money in order to do this. Aegean Sailing School was born and has since taught hundreds of students from all over the world, to whom George passed on his love of sailing and the sea.
One of George’s key characteristics was his zest for life and his enthusiasm about everything he participated in. He was a superb (if messy) cook, and loved to entertain friends and family. Many former students can testify to the delicious meals he could produce at sea. Here’s a photo of him in the galley. Is that a sea-urchin he is preparing?
There is a saying that you can take the man out of the Navy but you can never quite take the Navy out of the man. George’s teaching style always retained a slightly military edge but this was something that many students appreciated. Having spent much of his life fighting the ‘Cold War’ he was amused that, in recent years, he taught many Russian ex-military personnel.
George was a completely open, genuine man, with no prejudice towards anyone. He treated everyone the same regardless of their age, gender, race, or religion and delighted in the success of others as much as in his own achievements.
If you are a former student of George and would like to leave a tribute to him there are two ways you can do this. Firstly, please leave a comment and/or photograph on his Facebook Memorial page.
Secondly, you can make a donation in his memory to the Not Forgotten Association, a small charity that provides recreational opportunities for injured and disabled service and ex-service personnel. This was one of George’s favourite charities. You can make an online donation on this page or please feel free to contact us for other ways to donate.
George’s legacy of Aegean Sailing School will continue. Mark Cooper, our Chief Instructor, remains with the school, which will be run from now on by Andrew van Dalen, whom some of you may have met in 2015.
Melody will continue to be involved in the school for the 2016 season, instructing some of our weekend navigation courses and keeping you up to date with special offers and trips through her Sailing Mailing List. If you’re not already on this list, please send her an email to be added.
Read what some of our sailing students have to say, explore our course catalogue, and contact us for more information about each course and our availabilities to come and sail in Greece!