William McBurnie was born at Maxwelltown, Dumfriesshire on 3 May 1892. His parents were William McBurnie, a tobacconist and confectioner and his wife Mary McGurk.

He was educated at Saint Joseph's College, Dumfries, Saint Mary's College, Blairs, Aberdeen and The Scots College, Rome. He was ordained at the Seminary Chapel, Rome on 24 April 1921.

Father McBurnie was originally on loan to the Archdiocese of Saint Andrew and Edinburgh.  He served at the Church of Saint John the Evangelist, Cumnock from 1922 to 1925; Saint Joseph’s Church, Kilmarnock from 1925 to 1927; Saint Margaret’s Church, Ayr from 1927 to 1933; Saint Francis Xavier Church, Waterside from 1933 to 1937; Saint Sophia’s Church, Galston from 1937 to 1939 and the Church of Saint Andrew and Cuthbert, Kirkcudbright from 1939 to 1952.

He became Parish Priest of the Church of Saint Peter in Chains, Ardrossan in the spring of 1952. Sadly, his pastorship of the parish lasted little more than a year. Father McBurnie died at Douglas Street, Dumfries on 22 August 1953 while visiting his father.

The obituary below is from the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 28 August 1953.

Rev. William J. McBurnie

It is with the deepest regret that we record the death of the Rev. William J. McBurnie, the Parish Priest of Ardrossan whose passing caused much shock and distress in the community.

Father McBurnie, who was a native of Dumfries, had newly gone to his home town for a holiday and collapsed and died suddenly at the dinner-table on Saturday. He was aged about fifty-seven and had not enjoyed the best of health for some time, although lately he had told his friends that he had felt better.

He had been educated at St. Joseph's R.C. College, Dumfries, and Blair's College, Aberdeen, then spent seven years in Rome where he was ordained in 1921. He served at Girvan, Kilmarnock, Ayr, Dalmellington, Galston and Kirkcudbright before coming to Ardrossan a year ago on the death of the late Canon Fitzpatrick. While he was here Father McBurnie was a member of the Education Sub-Committee and was Convener of Ardrossan Central School.

Although his time in Ardrossan was so tragically short, Father McBurnie endeared himself to a very large number of people, not only of his own persuasion but also of all other classes and creeds. All who met him could not fail to be cheered and uplifted by his unflagging cheerfulness in conversation and his tireless kindness and extreme spirit of friendship.

Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated in his church of St. Peter in Chains, Ardrossan on Monday and the funeral took place at Dumfries on Tuesday. A large party of parishioners, together with local clergy, travelled to Dumfries to join the mourners at the funeral.

In recent months, it was Father McBurnie's delight to sit or stroll in the garden of his Presbytery on sunny days and he was always watchful to recognise and wave his hand to any of his friends who might be passing. A great many people, old and young, will feel their lives darkened by the removal of his friendly presence and the loss of his ready smile.