Harry Borrer Kirk (1859–1948)
Harry Borrer Kirk was born at Coventry on 9th March, 1859.
He was the son of Thomas Kirk, F.L.S., later Professor of Natural Science at Wellington College when that institution was still affiliated to the infant University of New Zealand, and from his father he appears to have inherited directly the perfect clearness of expression and the remarkable power of rousing enthusiasm in his students which characterised the whole of his teaching career.
As a boy at Wellington College he was prominent in all school activities, gaining scholarships and prizes in mathematics, classics. English, modern languages, and natural science, and playing vigorous football against Nelson College in what was the first of a long series of intercollege matches (June, 1876).
His school records include: Scholarship under old regulations (1875); B.A. (1882); M.A. with double first-class honours (1883).
Soon after leaving Wellington College he entered the Education Department and, after his appointment as junior inspector of Maori schools, had to travel the length and breadth of New Zealand. During these travels he made friends of his Maori pupils, collected specimens for himself and other naturalists, and gathered a wealth of stories which in later years, inimitably retold, were to entrance his hearers at a smoko or give a humorous punch to some point in a lecture.
In 1903 he was chosen to become the first occupant of the newly established chair of biology at Victoria University College, and at that College found his true home.
Though a born naturalist with a great love for individual research, Kirk soon realized that the still young Victoria College—it had seen only four years of work—demanded first a tutor, and it is as an inspired teacher, and trusted adviser of the taught, that he will be remembered with affectionate gratitude by scattered hundreds long after his published papers in botany and zoology * (and they are many, as the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute and Transactions of the Royal Society of New Zealand for the years 1879 to 1940 bear witness) are referred to by workers in natural science only.
His colleagues and former students were indeed proud to honour him during his lifetime, and in 1940 unveiled, in the vestibule of the spacious new biology block for which he had worked so long and so hard, a bronze portrait plaque surmounting a tablet, also in bronze, bearing the following inscription:—
[Footnote] * A list of Kirk's publications is given in Tuatara, J. Zool. Soc., Vict, Univ. Coll., 1948, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 2–4.