Five minutes with Austin Cornish
PUBLISHED: 11:53 22 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:53 22 April 2014
Gina Long talks to the Bury St Edmunds businessman about a very personal fundraising mission
Forty years ago Austin Cornish’s father, Laurie, died along with 17 other members of Bury Rugby Club in a plane crash. Now he’s organising an anniversary memorial cycle ride.
Tell me about your dad and the fundraising you have planned in his honour.
I was three when my father was tragically killed, along with 17 of his team mates from Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club, on March 3, 1974. They’d been in Paris watching the Five Nations match between England and France and were flying home on Turkish Airlines Flight 981, which crashed in Ermenonville Forest, north-east of Paris. In total, 346 people died in what is still one of the worst airline disasters of all time.
My father was 39 and had two businesses – Bury Straw Company and he was a partner in a screen printing business in Bury St Edmunds. My mother sold both businesses after the accident. Before that he was in the Grenadier Guards and had also worked for Manns of Saxham. He was a keen sportsman and very sociable, which is where I guess I get it from.
We have a memorial cycle ride planned from the crash site in Ermenonville to Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club starting on May 7 and arriving in Bury on Sunday May 11. Nearly 100 cyclists and 20 volunteers have signed up to cycle a total of 310 miles, which is fantastic. Each person has signed up for different reasons, but ultimately to remember those who lost their lives. We’re raising money for St Nicholas Hospice Care and also to install floodlights for the youth pitches at Bury Rugby Club.
You’re clearly passionate about your charity work – what drives you?
I think it stems from the rugby club when I lost my father. The club rallied together to support everyone affected, which my family and I were, and are eternally grateful for. I now try to do the same. I’ve been on the committee for Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Auction and Ball – the two online auctions and Suffolk charity balls were a great success raising over £609,000. I’ve also been on the St Nicholas Hospice Care Special Events Committee for six years. We have a lot of fun organising some amazing events. I head up the Classic and Sports Cars by the Lake, now in its fifth year. Last year, we raised £24,000 and this year the event will be held on August 31.
You have your own business – how did it all start?
When I turned 30 in 2001, I started Bury Developments. I was fortunate to take on three people that I had worked with previously and from there we have grown to 18 employees. We work all over the East of England from our offices in Fornham All Saints Last year, we built the Suffolk Food Hall’s new Cookhouse restaurant, which we’re very proud of.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Having my three children, Arthur, George and Ruby, and seeing them grow up with the values I would hope for.
If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go and who with?
I would travel to Scandinavia to see the northern lights with my wife Shirley, family, plus Sir Ranulph Fiennes for some light entertainment.
Name one possession you will never throw away.
My first team jersey from Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club. I played there from the age of 18 until I was 30 and enjoyed every minute.
What are you looking forward to?
May 12 – the day after I complete my 310 cycle ride! Closely followed by the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Should you trust your instincts?
Yes – I’m a firm believer in going with your gut feelings and not having any regrets.
What does Suffolk mean to you?
Home, but also friendship. I’m fortunate to have a great group of friends who I think a lot of.
Tell me a big secret . . .
I crashed my first car in a ditch when my parents were out – and managed to get it home and mended before they got in that evening.