Remembering Martin Burns

I met Martin Burns in 2014 at Lean Agile Scotland. It was only the second conference I had ever talked at, and I didn’t know that many people. He welcomed me into the Lean Agile Scotland family with open arms.

I’ve read two tributes about him online now and laughed when both of them said “he was an amazing friend despite our differing beliefs”. That was so Martin. A staunch supporter of SAFe, he’d always be the one to poke on twitter or ask the hard question at the end of your talk.

The thing was, Martin just loved debating. He loved sharing his ideas, furthering the agile community, and bonding with people, whether or not we all shared the same ideas.

He was truly one of those people you could debate anything with, and still be friends. You knew it was never malicious, because you knew that Martin loved you. If you were his friend, he genuinely loved you. He liked hanging out with you. He wanted to talk with you and hear your opinions. He was your cheerleader and champion no matter what.

I spent the last year traveling to Edinburgh frequently for work. Martin would always be the one to get the plans going. He and Lucy would rally the troops every time for dinner. He’d pick out the bar or restaurant depending on what I wanted to do. Every time I visited, it felt like coming home. He made sure of that.

About a month ago, I went back to Edinburgh for a work trip. Martin had been trying to get me back to speak at the meetup on my book, and the stars were finally aligned. I was also bringing my boyfriend with me, and we were trying to get out to see the Highlands (and, of course, drink the whisky) for the for the weekend.

“So Lucy and I are off that week — fancy a couple of guides/ chauffeurs / annoying hangers on?… Which means you *both* can drink whisky!” Martin asked.

Damn right I was.

Thursday night Martin and I talked about Escaping the Build Trap at his meetup Scaling Agile and DevOps Scotland. It was a fantastic event, with so many great faces from the community.

Afterwards we all went back to Martin and Lucy’s house for the traditional late night hang out (which many will know from the LAScot after parties!) and 11pm pasta. Martin whipped up the spaghetti, and we all drank and ate late into the night.

Unfortunately, Lucy had to stay home from our Highlands trip when we took off two days later, so we got Martin all to ourselves.

He drove all day, both days, for over 12 hours, being our tour guide in the Highlands, watching us drink whisky when he couldn’t because he was driving (don’t worry we got him the to-go bottles!), and regaling us with stories of scottish folklore.

At dinner, I asked him, “Martin, aren’t you tired of this trip? I mean you are doing all the driving but you can’t drink! This doesn’t seem like fun.”

He said, “I get to hang out with my friends, of course it’s fun.”

On the way back to the airport, we were running a bit behind for our flight to Dublin because we had to stop at Loch Ness and take ridiculous photos. He held this Nessie for me so I could get the perfect shot.

We ended up blasting Queen, singing at the top of our lungs, doing at least 90 MPH down the highway to the airport for 2 hours. I gave him the biggest hug when we got to the airport. I didn’t think it would be the last.

I am so thankful I knew you Martin, and even more thankful to call you my friend. You will be so missed.


If you would like to know more about Martin and his work in Agile, please check out his talks here:

And here are other tributes about Martin: