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Tuatara: Volume 1, Issue 3, September 1948

In Memoriam

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In Memoriam

Hark ye friend; you have been a burgher of this great city, what matter though you have lived in it five years or three; if you have observed the laws of the corporation, the length or shortness of the time makes no difference. Where is the hardship then, if nature that planted you here, orders your removal? You cannot say you are sent off by a tyrant or unjust judge. No, you quit the stage as fairly as a player does that has his discharge from the master of the revels. But I have only gone through three acts, and not held out to the end of the fifth. You say well; but in life three acts make the play entire. He that ordered the opening of the first scene now gives the sign for shutting up the last; you are neither accountable for one nor the other; therefore retire, well satisfied, for He, by whom you are dismissed, is satisfied too. — Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
“The whole earth is the tomb of heroic men whose stories are graven, not only in stone above their clay, but abide everywhere, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men's lives.”

Professor Kirk died at the Waikato Hospital, at 10 p.m. on Thursday, the 15th July, 1948. He had been transferred from Tauranga to Hamilton with leg fracture on a somewhat desperate hope of saving his life by an operation, an operation which it was found could not be attempted. He had expressed the wish that his body should be cremated, that the only ceremony should consist of a few words spoken by an old friend—and he had named Sir Thomas Hunter. It proved impossible for Sir Thomas to travel and I was asked, on behalf of his family and of Victoria University College, to speak at the cremation.

At noon on Saturday, the 17th July at the Crematorium of Waikomiti, Auckland, the remains of Harry Borrer Kirk were disposed of according to his wishes and these were the words spoken.

It is thought inappropriate for us to meet and part without paying some tribute of respect, admiration and love for our old friend. We knew his humour, his scholarship, his loving kindness, his wisdom, but above all, the integrity of his soul and spirit.

We think of him first, perhaps, as the Professor, the man of science, for it was to science that he dedicated his life. The search for truth, the extension of its bounds was his mission and he followed the trail diligently and without faltering. “Sapere Aude,” the University motto was his also. It was part of the instinctive integrity of his spirit.

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He had spent some years in the Department of Education as Inspector of Native Schools before, in 1903, he was appointed Professor of Biology at Victoria University College. He held that Chair for forty-two years with distinction, but with something more. He had to build his Faculty from very small beginnings and in temporary rooms, but he was able to inspire his students not only with his love of knowledge, but also with his own gentleness and loving kindness. Wisdom was to him more than gold and more than knowledge. His integrity of spirit was his legacy to his Department and to the College. No one has given more to Victoria University College and no one has been more richly rewarded in love and understanding. I speak today for the College in reverence and affection.

After the outbreak of the first World War came a fresh opportunity. Science, and especially biology, was no barren study unrelated to life and the Professor no pedant outside the sphere of the life of the common man. So he went into the military camps with the guile of the diplomat and the competence of the man of affairs. He cut through military routine, dealt with the fly menace and eliminated the disease due to fly contamination. In this way he rendered signal service to his country.

I speak today for many thousands of those throughout New Zealand who loved him; for his old students; for all, who, especially at the beginning, came under the spell of a great teacher and a great and generous spirit. His greatness and simplicity were reflected in that noble courtesy which belonged to the Pioneers.

“But most their desert Camelot
They filled with knightly rays
Of gentleness and courtesy
Which fill for us our days.”

W. F. Alexander.

I now commit his body to the elements and conclude with Kipling's words.

“Let us now praise famous men
Men of little showing,
For their work continueth
And their work continueth
Broad and deep continueth
Greater than their knowing.”

F. A. de la Mare.

25th July, 1948.

Publications of Professor H. B. Kirk

  • Calceolaria repens and other Plants discovered in Wellington District, Trans. N.Z. Inst. 11, p. 466; 1879.page 3
  • Anatomy of Sepioteuthis bilineata. Trans. N.Z. Inst. 16, p. 145; 1884.
  • Contributions to a knowledge of the Sponges of New Zealand.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 26, p. 175; 1894
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 27, p. 287; 1895.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 28, p. 205; 1896.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 30, p. 313; 1898.
  • Occurrence of Starch and Glucose in Timber.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 37, p. 379; 1905.
  • Two Marine Gymnomyxa: Amoeba agilis and Myroplasma rete.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 39, p. 520; 1907.
  • Preliminary Note on some Stages in the Development of a Polychaete.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 40, p. 286; 1908.
  • Two Sponges from Campbell Island. Sub Antarctic Islands of New Zealand.
    • Art. XXIV. pp. 539-541; 1909.
  • Sponges collected at Kermadec Islands by Mr. W. R. B. Oliver.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 43, p. 574; 1911.
  • Features of Circulatory System of Heptatrema cirrata Forster.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 44, p. 241; 1912.
  • The Present Aspect of Some Problems of Heredity.
    • Report of the Australian Assoc. for the Adv. of Science. Vol. XIV, pp. 253-266; 1913,
  • A new species of Gymnoblastic Hydroids, Ascidioclava.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 47, p. 146; 1915.
  • Gonoducts of Porcupine fish (Dicotylichthys jaculiferus Cuvier).
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 48, p. 384; 1916.
  • The Much-abbreviated Development of a Sand-star (Ophionereis schayeri?)—Preliminary Note.
    • Trans. N.Z. Inst. 48, p. 383; 1916.
  • Mosquito Larvicides, Trans. N.Z. Inst. 50, p. 193; 1918.
  • Methods of Fly-Control in Military Camps. Issued by the New Zealand Defence Department, 1916 and 1919.
  • Report on Kapiti Island, Trans. N.Z. Inst. 51, p. 468; 1919. (H. B. Kirk and W. E. Bendall).
  • Flies and how to treat them. Issued by the Borough Council of Gisborne.
  • On growth-periods of New Zealand trees, especially Nothofagus fusca and the Totara (Podocarpus totara). Trans. N.Z. Inst. 53, p. 429; 1921.
  • James Hector (Obituary). Trans. N.Z. Inst. Vol. 54, pp. ix–xii; 1923.page 4
  • Notes on the mating habit and early life history of the Culicid Opifex fuscus Hutton. Trans. N.Z. Inst. 54, p. 400; 1923.
  • A method of injecting the Tracheae of Insects. Trans. N.Z. Inst. 55, p. 669; 1924.
  • Notes on the Breeding Habits and the Early Development of Dolichoglossus otagoensis, Benham. Trans. Roy. Soc. N.Z., 68, p. 49; 1938.