William Boyton Kirk, Sculptor

(b. 1824, d. 1900)


From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Second son of Thomas Kirk (q.v.), was born on the 29th May, 1824. As a boy he showed marked talent for sculpture, and his father was desirous of placing him as an apprentice with Chantrey who, however, refused, saying that he thought the boy's father would be his best teacher. He was sent to the Dublin Society's School as a pupil in April, 1839, and also worked in his father's studio in Jervis Street. In 1845 he entered Trinity College, but left without taking his degree. He made his first appearance as an exhibitor in the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1844. His "Iris Ascending," now at Marlborough House, was exhibited in 1846 and was purchased for fifteen pounds by the Royal Irish Institution. He had, however, little desire to continue in his profession as a sculptor, his one wish being to become a clergyman, a wish ultimately fulfilled. But for some years he worked at his profession and was made an Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy on 16th February, 1850. Besides groups and busts he did a large figure of "Justice" for the Courthouse in Belfast; he designed the Shakespeare dessert service for the Worcester China works, which was shown in the Dublin Exhibition in 1853, and also several figures—"Erin," "Winter," "Summer," etc., for the Belleek works. He was an exhibitor in the Royal Academy from 1848 to 1857, and during most of that time was resident in England. In 1860 he carried out his long-cherished design of entering the Church; he took orders and held various cures in England; was for some time vicar of Holy Trinity, Birkenhead, and afterwards of St. Peter's, Ashton-under-Lyne. He resigned his Associateship of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1873, and on the 11th October of that year was made an Honorary Member. After his ordination he occasionally did some busts, including "Lord James Butler," "Dr. Ellicot, Bishop of Gloucester"; "Dr. Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool," and a figure of "Jael," his last work exhibited in Dublin.

He was author of "The Immaculate Conception; or the Martyrs of Santiago"; "The Sailor's Complaint"; "The Martyrs of Antioch," and other poems, and of "The Antiquities of Ashton-under-Lyne and Neighbourhood." He married in 1853 Sarah Watson Mahony, daughter of Denis Fitzgerald Mahony, of Co. Limerick.

Kirk died at Ashton-under-Lyne on 5th July, 1900.

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