The Gisborne Colored Man – The Gisborne Herald
Color therapist Errol Burr’s Gisborne patients followed him to New Plymouth in such numbers that he felt compelled to return.
It was a measure of the respect and affection in which he was held that friends and patients helped him settle down on Stanley Road so that he could practice his practice from his home.
All in all, Errol Burr was Gisborne’s “colored man” for over 40 years. He retired from practice five years ago and passed away on August 1. He would have been 76 this month.
Relatives and friends remember a calm and gentle man with a dry sense of humor, a love of ham radio and ballroom dancing, and a passion for his calling.
Errol John Burr was born in Thames in 1945, the youngest of three children of Arthur John (Jack) and Beatrice May Burr. Jack and May Burr had come from New Plymouth with their elder Alvin to run the Tararu store on the northern outskirts of the Thames, and had two other children – Beverley and Errol.
When Errol was six years old and a student at Thames North School, the family returned to New Plymouth after a 10-year absence. Jack Burr joined Newton King Ltd, a storage and railway station agency that was also a shipping agent and sold wool, dairy, cars, trucks, real estate and groceries through ‘businesses developed or acquired in centers (including Gisborne) from Hamilton to Wellington.
In New Plymouth, Errol attended Welbourn School, Highlands Intermediate, and New Plymouth Boys’ High School.
Jack Burr was an avid amateur radio operator and his son had a similar interest. Errol became proficient in Morse code and obtained his ham radio operator license when he was still a teenager. As long as Jack Burr lived, he and Errol had a regular Friday morning catch-up on the air.
When Errol left school, he became a radio inspector at the Post Office. The inspectors enforced radio regulations and tracked down interference. When someone complained of interference with their radio or television signal, it was the inspectors’ job to find the cause and fix the problem.
This occupation led Errol to the Musick Memorial radio station in Bucklands Beach, Auckland, and Wanganui for short periods before being transferred to Gisborne in the early 1970s.
At that time, Errol had become interested in the practice of chromotherapy.
When her children were in pain, May Burr would take them to one of the two chromotherapists in New Plymouth or to a general practitioner, depending on the illness.
In his teens, Errol underwent surgery for Crohn’s disease and had three feet of his bowel removed. May took him to a Rotorua chromotherapist for two weeks of treatment to help him recover.
At the end of this period, the therapist told Errol that he could learn to heal himself.
Errol’s sister Beverley of New Plymouth said her brother’s study of chromotherapy involved a lot of reading and the ability to set up the equipment upon which diagnosis and treatment relied.
In Gisborne he pursued this interest in chromotherapy and by word of mouth people heard about him and asked for treatment. This is what he initially did informally.
He continued to pursue his other interests – amateur radio and dancing. He had been a competitive ballroom dancer in New Plymouth, and at the dance of the Gisborne Caledonian Society he met Yvonne Manson, whom he married in 1972. They had two children, Marion and Alastair, and three grandsons. children – Jaimee and Sam, and Abigail Grace.
In the meantime, word of mouth references for chromotherapy have multiplied and in 1973 Errol resigned from the post to become a full-time chromotherapist, operating from the family home on Albert Street.
The first few years were tough, but many of Errol’s early patients became lifelong friends. The treatments lasted two hours. Patients would sit in a room, read, knit, talk, and sometimes sleep.
The charges were low enough to have drifted out of memory. One of his patients, Dell Buscke, said his fees were minimal and increases were as rare as a royal visit to town.
The June 1977 floods damaged the Albert Street home, resulting in a return to New Plymouth. By this time Errol had built up a loyal following and, although he practiced across the North Island, demand from the people of Gisborne who undertook the difficult road trip to make themselves care was such that in 1979 he returned to the east.
In an article written by Errol for the Gisborne Herald Weekend Extra in the 1980s, he described “the art of diagnosis”.
“While the ability to diagnose is definitely a gift, it needs to be developed and the techniques are diverse, some quite simple and others more complex,” he wrote. “The art of diagnosis is that of dowsing – sensitivity to radiation.
“The dozens of color combinations programmed for diagnosis and treatment are derivatives of the basic representations of the chakras. Shades of one or more colors can be mixed and tuned to specific frequencies of disease or bodily imbalance. I combine these color frequencies with low frequency radio wave transmissions to carry the color component to the patient.
“Diagnosis involves polarizing the color sample that is tested by the therapist, with the patient’s electromagnetic field. A resulting positive or negative indication of each color tested can decide which combination to use in the treatment.
Dowsing is akin to dowsing, and while skeptics might say that the existence of such a gift was not supported by scientific evidence, believers would point to the results. They felt better.
And to those who suspect a placebo effect, Errol Burr would cite cases of infants whose condition and distress was alleviated when they received color therapy.
Dell Buscke said people even asked him to watch their pets and – unable to say no (“it wasn’t in his nature”) – he treated the animals, either on all fours or on feathers.
“It was also not in his nature to speak ill of anyone,” Dell said.
Errol’s daughter, Marion Treloar, said her father viewed his practice as complementary – rather than alternative – to conventional medicine.
“He often referred people to a GP (GP) and he never told anyone to stop taking anything a GP told them to take,” Marion said.
Pat Neshausen, a patient from 1976 until Errol’s retirement, said he was a good listener and sensitive to people.
“After your treatment you would get better and better with the days,” she said.
His mother, Dorothy West, was Errol’s receptionist for years.
“She was over 65 when she started working for him. He still called her Westie.
It was the social interaction – and being part of the business – that she found enjoyable.
Pat said Errol’s – mostly European – cars were kept in pristine condition. A Fiat 125 and a Citroën come to mind, although its last car is a Mitsubishi, which is also polished to perfection.
Marion recalled Errol’s love for sailing and the trailer yachts he owned as children.
Marion said he also had a hobby of restoring valve radios and that “a good number” of them would be in service in the city. For most of his life, he continued to practice Morse code and communicate with other over-the-air amateur radio operators.
Errol had given up ballroom dancing by the time he started as a full-time color therapist. In 1998, now divorced, he took up the torch and was a regular at the Caledonian Society dances at St Marks Hall until three years ago. The foxtrot was his favorite.
Although by nature calm, he enjoyed company, and he was a regular at the Cosmopolitan Club on raffle nights, when he had a meal and a glass of juice with friends.
In his later years, Errol was fortunate to be surrounded by good friends, loving family and knowledgeable caregivers, and he is remembered fondly by them and those he has cared for. – by John Gillies
READY TO GO: Teenager Errol Burr pictured with ham radio equipment in New Plymouth in 1963. Photo credit: Swainson’s Studios, Errol Burr, Radio Operator (1963), collection of Puke Ariki, New Plymouth
DAPPER: Errol Burr wore a suit and tie for much more than ballroom dancing. Photo provided