Olivia Inspires

Nigel and Paula Burt

Olivia's parents

Where does one start when talking about Olivia?

She went off to university in Durham in October and just 4 months later she was taken from us in the cruellest and most shocking circumstances imaginable.

Coming to terms with the loss of our wonderful daughter is immeasurably difficult.

The motto of her college at Durham could have been made for Olivia, Non nobis solum, ‘not for ourselves alone’.

This was always Olivia’s path through life. She wanted to succeed, but unlike many who seek success on the backs of others, Olivia wanted to succeed whilst at the same time bringing everyone else along with her.

From her early days at Milford Pre-school in the nativity play when she was Mary, Olivia not only learnt her own lines but all the other parts as well and provided prompts to Joseph when he forgot his words.

She continued helping others throughout her school life as she moved on to Milford Primary and then Bournemouth School for Girls.

Here, she loved to organise events and mentored younger pupils in science.

I don’t think anyone was surprised, apart from Olivia, when she was chosen as Head Girl.

Undecided about what she wanted to study at university, Olivia took a year out.

Typically, she didn’t squander her time. Instead she joined the Year in Industry scheme and spent 10 months with Gill Instruments in Lymington working on wind instrumentation.

For many young people, working full-time would be more than enough.

But Olivia was not typical; at the same time, she worked towards and passed her Grade 8 exam on the clarinet, an instrument she first picked up at primary school.

She also qualified as a sailing instructor and, most challenging of all, she taught herself and passed Further Maths A-Level.

As soon as she finished at Gill, a place where she made many good friends, she went straight on to teaching sailing at Hengistbury Head where she found out that children don’t always do what their teachers tell them to do.

Hearing her tales and frustration about what happened sometimes was so funny.

A thread that runs through all of Olivia’s life is sailing. Her first experience was at the Salterns in an Optimist at the age of 6.

She quickly started competitive sailing, gaining a place in the South Zone Squad.

Selection for the National Intermediate Squad followed. Growing too big for the Oppy, Olivia moved into the Laser.

Here, she earned places in National Squads and represented Great Britain at two European Championships.

Throughout her years on the water, Olivia made many friends who have remained close over the ensuing years.

It seems only yesterday that we put Olivia on a train for Durham for pre-season sailing training.

Yet, in other ways it seems a lifetime ago.

She was so excited but a bit apprehensive of this new adventure.

Being a member of University College in Durham Castle was, for her, as a huge Harry Potter fan, like living out her dreams.

Olivia has always enjoyed dressing up and a whole week of fancy dress parties during Freshers’ Week resulted in a whirl of excitement as she planned her costumes – who could forget her Kew Gardens costume for the London Underground party which caused such a stir, constructed as it was from artificial grass and flowers?

Olivia threw herself into university life with her natural enthusiasm.

A place on the University Sailing Team – she loved the camaraderie and cut and thrust of team racing, a member of her college’s Entertainments Committee and playing saxophone in the Castle big band, the list seems endless.

Through all of this, she made a huge number of new friends – her smile lit up the room, and her kindness and ability to bring people together were something truly special.

Olivia was the light in our lives and that light has now been extinguished. We were and always will be immensely proud of Olivia.

She was growing into an exceptional and inspirational young woman and would have made an indelible mark on the world.

She meant everything to us and at the moment we don’t know what we are going to do without her.

If the senselessness of all of this is to mean anything then we must remember Olivia.

Remember her kindness, her wonderful sense of humour, her bravery and her optimism. And most importantly, remember the way she brought joy and love into the lives of everyone who knew her.

Olivia, thank you for the last twenty years. You brought so much fun, happiness and love into our lives.

We love you – always have and always will.