After school in South Shields and Appleby Harry Burn served oversees in the Gordon Highlanders and then attended Kings College, University of Durham gaining a First Class Hons degree in mining engineering in 1953. He started in the mining industry as a Direct Practical Trainee at Ashington Colliery and in the Yorkshire Division. His first appointment was as Undermanager at Leasingthorne Colliery, Bishop Auckland and then in a similar position at East Hetton Colliery. He was then Manager at South Pelaw, Beamish Mary and Beamish South Collieries, all in County Durham. In 1963 he became Group Manager in the North West Durham area and in 1967 a Production Manager in the North East Area. In 1983 he was appointed Chief Mining Engineer of the North East Area.
In 1968 he was awarded a silver medal from the National Association of Colliery Managers for a paper “Thin seam mining”.
He was NEIMME President in 1976-77
Burn, H. Pacemaker drivage, North Durham area Mining Engineer 133 1973-74, 297-304
Burn, H. The North East Coalfield – the past and the future [Presidential Address NEIMME] Mining Engineer 136 1976-77, 691-695