William Thompson Kirkpatrick

Vol. 8 No. 1 - 2001

William Thompson Kirkpatrick


by Ian Wilson

In any historical study it is common to come across names, which appear briefly, often in connection with a prominent personality, then disappear again, never to resurface. We are left wondering just who these people were, who impacted upon the personal development of those whom we personally admire, then fade into oblivion.

One such person is William Thompson Kirkpatrick. For a few short years he was tutor to a young Belfast boy, preparing him for university entrance. Shortly afterwards he died and would probably have been totally forgotten had it not been for the fact that that young boy went on to become a prominent academic, writer and broadcaster who, in his autobiography painted a vivid picture of his old tutor. The boy's name was Clive (or C S) Lewis, pictured below, better known by generations of children as author of the "Narnia" books and by many adults for his writings on popular theology.

C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis

The events which brought young Clive Lewis under the influence of W.T.Kirkpatrick are interesting. Lewis' father, Albert Lewis, was born in Belfast. His family, on his father's side, originally came from Wales, and were involved in the engineering trade in the city. In 1879 the Lewis family was looking for a school for young Albert, where he could be prepared for a career in law and it was to Lurgan College that they turned. The College had been opened in 1873 under the principalship of E.V.Boulger. When Boulger left, in December 1875, he was replaced by W.T.Kirkpatrick, who had been teaching at R.B.A.I. Kirkpatrick, as we shall see, had established a formidable reputation as a teacher in Belfast and it is possible that it was this reputation that persuaded the Lewis family to send Albert to Lurgan as a boarder. He remained at Lurgan College until 1880, when he left to join the law firm of Malcolm, Boyle and McClean.

The Great Knock

Some thirty years later, when Albert Lewis was looking for a "crammer" to prepare his sons for university entrance, it was to his old headmaster, Kirkpatrick, now living in retirement in Surrey, that he turned. So it was that Warren and Clive Lewis came to Great Bookham, where Kirkpatrick lived, for tuition. Forty years later, C.S.Lewis wrote his autobiography " Surprised by Joy", and in it we find a chapter on " The Great Knock" (Kirkpatrick's nickname at Lurgan College), with its fascinating description of life with the Kirkpatricks and its beautiful pen portrait of the old man as he then was. It is also from this source that we have the only known photograph of the Kirkpatricks - a snap taken by Warren Lewis during a visit shortly before W.T's death.

So, who was W.T. Kirkpatrick? It is strange that the Lewis brothers, despite a family connection stretching back over 40 years (Albert Lewis acted as Kirkpatrick's solicitor throughout his later life), knew little about his background. They knew, from their father, about the Lurgan days, and from that time would have been aware that Kirkpatrick had a sister. Outside that, they appeared to have been singularly ignorant about him. Some years ago, in the course of a correspondence with Mr Walter Hooper, author of a number of classic works on C.S.Lewis, and a personal friend of the two brothers, it transpired that both were under the impression that Kirkpatrick might have studied in Scotland. In fact, as we shall see, he was a graduate of Queen's College, Belfast. As to his family background, nothing of relevance appears in either "Surprised by Joy", or the Lewis papers, which were put in order by Warren. We do know that C.S. used Kirkpatrick as the model for the character of McPhee, who appears in "That Hideous Strength" and "The Dark Tower". McPhee is a highly articulate, intelligent but somewhat opinionated Scots-Irishman, with distinctly atheistic views on matters of religious belief. In some instances, McPhee is almost an unpleasant character, something that does not really fit in with the obvious devotion felt by both Lewis brothers (and indeed , their father) for Kirkpatrick.

It was Kirkpatrick's association with Lurgan College that first brought him to my notice, when I was researching the history of the school some years ago. Shortly afterwards Mr Hooper, whom I have already mentioned, wrote to the school seeking information about Kirkpatrick for inclusion in his C.S.Lewis Companion. The correspondence that followed provides the basis for this article.

W.T. Kirkpatrick was born on January 10th, 1848, at Boardmills, Co Down. His father was James Kirkpatrick. The family came from the townland of Carrickmaddyroe, leading me to suppose that the background was in farming. There appear to have been Kirkpatricks in the area for some years and a brother remained in the family home after James moved to Belfast. James' wife was a Blakely, from another well known local family. W.T. Kirkpatrick was the second child in the family, a sister, Anna Mussen Kirkpatrick having been born on February 24th, 1845.

The Kirkpatricks were Presbyterians, belonging to the First Boardmills congregation. Both W.T. and his sister were baptised there, and the graves of many members of the family will be found in the churchyard there, including both sets of grandparents. The next few years are somewhat uncertain. We do know that the family moved to Belfast, for they were living at 21, Eliza Street, in the 1860's. Given the circumstances prevalent in Ireland in the late 1840's and early 1850's it is tempting to assume that this move was part of that great migration provoked by the Famine but there is no evidence for this. Certainly, James Kirkpatrick seems to have been a man of some means, because he was able to send his son to Belfast Inst. Hooper, on the basis of his access to the RBAI records dates Kirkpatrick's "matriculation" (and by this I assume he means his admission to Inst) in 1862. From the records of Queen's College, Belfast, as it then was, we learn that he was a student there from 1865 - 1868, so it can be assumed that Kirkpatrick spent three years at Inst in preparation for university entrance.

Distinguished academic career

At Queen's College he had a distinguished academic career, graduating (in July, 1868) with 1st class honours in English, History and Metaphysics. In his final year he had written the English Prize Essay, under the nom-de-plume Tamerlaine . He was also awarded a Double Gold Medal by the Royal University of Ireland, the only one given that year. All these are matters of verifiable fact but the next few years are shrouded in a certain amount of uncertainty. It is clear that Kirkpatrick's intention immediately following graduation was to pursue a career in the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. In line with this ambition he entered Assembly's College in Belfast and followed the normal three-year course of theological studies, preparatory to ordination to the ministry. However, it seems probable that while these studies were being undertaken he was also teaching English at his old school.

The records of Assembly's College show that he completed his theological course successfully in 1871, having studied Christian Ethics, Oriental Languages, Biblical Criticism, Ecclesiastical History and Rhetoric. The records of the Presbytery of Belfast show that he became a licentiate of the Presbyterian Church (that is, he was recognised as having met the academic and other standards demanded by the church of its ordinands) in 1871, under the care of that presbytery. That appears to be as far as Kirkpatrick's theological ambitions went. He was, by 1871, firmly established in Inst and already building for himself a formidable reputation. It is possible that a man of liberal theological views, as Kirkpatrick undoubtedly was, would find himself somewhat out of sympathy with the prevailing attitudes of his church in the aftermath of the great religious revival of 1859. It is equally possible that few Presbyterian congregations would be willing to take on such a man as a minister. Whatever the reason, although Kirkpatrick admitted that he had "preached on a few occasions", by 1875 he seems to have decided that his future lay in education.

By this time he was also living at a new location - Anchor Lodge, Ballynafeigh. There is no evidence that this was a family move, although it is possible. The new home was very much in the "leafy suburbs", where Eliza Street was " inner city" and it is possible that, when he started teaching at Inst, Kirkpatrick moved into lodgings. The houses in Eliza Street (in the Markets Area of Belfast) would have been fairly cramped for a family of four adults. Having taken the decision to make education his life's work, Kirkpatrick responded with characteristic determination. By 1872, he was already casting about for a headmastership. In December of that year the announcement of the establishment of Lurgan College was made, and applications for the post of headmaster were sought. When the trustees of the new school met, on 30th January 1873, they had 22 applications to consider. It is clear from the Trustees' Minute Book that only two names were seriously considered - W.T.Kirkpatrick and E.V.Boulger. Kirkpatrick was clearly disappointed by his failure to obtain the Lurgan post in 1873. There was little to choose between the two men; both were the same age, both had distinguished academic careers. However, Boulger seems to have had one major advantage. He was married and the school's trustees were, apparently, looking for a couple who could run not just the academic side of things but also the boarding school. Kirkpatrick suspected that there was also another reason for his failure. Lurgan College was established on the endowment of Samuel Watts, a prominent local businessman, who died in 1850. In his will, Watts had stated that " no person being in Holy Orders, or a Minister of any religious denomination shall at any time interfere in the management of the school, or be appointed to serve as master." Kirkpatrick believed that the knowledge that he was a Presbyterian licentiate had influenced the trustees against him, and that he had lost out "on a technicality" as he put it. While it is possible that this did have some bearing on the outcome of the appointment, there is no doubt that there were those involved with the trustees who would have known that Kirkpatrick, never having been ordained, was not a minister of the Presbyterian Church.

It is a measure of Kirkpatrick's ambition that he was, at the same time as he was pursuing the Lurgan appointment, applying for a number of other positions. He was, for instance, an applicant for the Chair of English at University College, Cork. The fact that he was even considered for this position is evidence of his high academic ability. More significantly, he was accepted as a candidate for the schools' inspectorate in England, being told that he would be offered an appointment when a vacancy arose. This was to be an important step, since clergymen were also barred from appointment as school inspectors, and Kirkpatrick was later to cite his candidature as evidence that he had been accepted as a layman. However, the move from Inst was not going to be a quick one. When Boulger resigned the headmastership at Lurgan in order to take up the Chair of Greek at University College Cork at the end of 1875, Kirkpatrick was still at Inst and was able to renew his application for the Lurgan post.

This time he was determined that there would be no misunderstanding about his clerical standing. He himself cited his candidature for the schools' inspectorate as evidence of his lay status, and a number of letters were written on his behalf to John Hancock, senior trustee at Lurgan College, emphasising the fact that he was not a clergyman. One of these letters was from Professor Henry of Queen's College. It is clear that Kirkpatrick impressed the Lurgan trustees, but there remained the matter of his marital status. In an attempt to get round this, Kirkpatrick volunteered the services of his sister Anna to help run the boarding department. It may well have been this arrangement, which swung things in his favour, for; on January 1st, 1876 he became Lurgan College's second headmaster. Among the surviving papers associated with the school are the testimonials provided by Kirkpatrick, along with the notes provided by Hancock for the use of the other trustees. These documents are of great interest, particularly the testimonial from Dr Carlisle, headmaster of RBAI, who wrote" the office of assistant master in a large public school is a most difficult and unenviable position, yet Mr Kirkpatrick has filled it in a way no-one in my experience has yet done." Although more cynical readers might be tempted to consider this a somewhat barbed compliment, it is clear that Kirkpatrick had established a considerable reputation at Inst. In 1910, Dr R.M.Jones, writing in the RBAI Centenary Book, wrote of Kirkpatrick as follows, "Of Mr Kirkpatrick I will only say that no boy and no man could be in his company for even a very short time without being impressed by the fact that he was in the presence of a man of unusual mental power and grasp, of an overmastering influence on the mind and of an intellectual honesty and vigour before which pretence and make-believe were dissipated like smoke before a strong wind." It should be noted that these comments were written about a man who was only in his twenties!

School numbers rise

The school that Kirkpatrick inherited was not in a strong position. Built to house 70 pupils, there were only 16 on the roll on that first morning in January 1876. However, it was not long before things began to move. Within two years, Kirkpatrick was able to report that numbers had risen to 61, 36 day boys and 25 boarders. Numbers continued at this level for a number of years, peaking at 73 in 1882. These numbers must have caused some problems, particularly the boarders. The dormitory, used as a classroom until the early 1970's, must have been bulging at the seams with 25 teenage boys sleeping there. Despite this pressure, boarding numbers remained around the 15 mark for most of Kirkpatrick's time. One thing is clear, however. Many of these boys were not from Lurgan. It seems that Kirkpatrick's Presbyterian connections brought a number of boarders from outside the town, many of them the sons of Presbyterian clergymen. It is also possible that some pupils followed him from Belfast as a result of his reputation at Inst, including, perhaps, Albert Lewis.

It was probably fortunate that Kirkpatrick came to Lurgan when he did, because his reputation was effectively built upon the examination performance of his pupils in the new examinations, under the Board of Intermediate Education, set up in 1879. The Board provided payment by results to schools, based on the performance by pupils in the Board's examinations. Although Kirkpatrick was critical of the system ("Examinations are not always reliable, nor are they a perfect test of education", he once wrote) he enthusiastically exploited the possibilities of the new examinations. In 1880, for instance, he had the top pupil in all Ireland at Junior level (J. G. Mahaffey), along with two Junior Grade exhibitions, worth £20 per year each and a Middle Grade Prize, worth £5. In 1882, Lurgan College produced 6 exhibitioners and 5 prizemen in the Junior and Middle Grades, as well as gaining 2nd place in all Ireland in Senior Grade (J. G. Mahaffey again!). In the same year, Mahaffey won the gold medal for gaining top marks in Ireland in Latin. It is sad to note that Mahaffey, a boy with a potentially brilliant future before him, died after a short illness in 1884, just before he was due to go to Trinity College, Dublin to complete his studies. This event clearly caused great distress at the College, and Kirkpatrick persuaded the Governing Body to erect a memorial obelisk to Mahaffey in Shankill graveyard.

This was the second such gesture made by the College authorities in tragic circumstances at this time. Dr Hermann Rostig, a native of the German region of Silesia, was one of two assistants employed by Kirkpatrick to meet the needs of the growing school. He had been in charge of Modern Languages since 1879. On March 5th, 1883 Dr Rostig died at the College, after a short illness. For many years there was a rumour that Rostig had actually committed suicide and that his ghost haunted the corridors of the old school. However, Mr Hooper sent me copies of a set of love letters to Albert Lewis from a local girl, Edie Macoun and in one of these, Edie writes "I believe Herr Rostig is dying; his brother has come from Germany to be with him. Later she writes, in another letter, of seeing the brother making his way to the station after the funeral. Once again, this death affected Kirkpatrick deeply, and he persuaded the Governors to erect a headstone on the grave in Shankill graveyard. As recently as the 1930's the College Governors paid to have the stone restored, although it has recently suffered vandalism and has been broken. The poignant little epitaph on the stone - "I was a stranger and they took me in" - seems to reflect the deeply caring side of Kirkpatrick's nature.

Personal challenges

While the work of the College was flourishing, the personal lives of both Kirkpatrick and his sister changed dramatically. On July 13th, 1881 Anna Kirkpatrick married A S Mitchell, who had been an Assistant Master at Lurgan College for a number of years, teaching Mathematics. The couple were married in St Anne's Church, Belfast. Because there was no accommodation at the College for married assistants, Mitchell had left the school and taken up an appointment as Mathematical master at Belfast Royal Academy. Some years later, the couple emigrated to the U.S.A., where Mitchell was appointed Principal of a school in Indianapolis. On July 15th, 1881, just two days after his sister, Kirkpatrick himself married Louisa Ashmore Smyth, at St Bartholomew's Church, Dublin. The new Mrs Kirkpatrick was daughter of George Smyth, a well-to-do stockbroker. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the timing of the weddings was deliberate. With his sister's departure, Kirkpatrick needed someone to assist with the boarding department, which was, as we have seen, bulging at the seams, and his own wedding so close to his sister's, suggests that this was at least one of things on Kirkpatrick's mind at the time. Certainly, when C. S. Lewis came to write his autobiography, "Surprised by Joy", he devoted a chapter to his time with the Kirkpatrick's. The impression he gives is of a couple perhaps not ideally suited. Mrs Kirkpatrick had little of her husband's intellectual gift and was much given to bridge parties and other social activities, which her husband rather openly scorned.

Mrs and Mrs Kirkpatrick shared the responsibility of running Lurgan College for the next 18 years. They had one child, George Louis, born on 23rd May 1882. Although the work of the school continued, numbers began to fall a little, and enrolment averaged only 50 for the last few years of Kirkpatrick's headmastership. Boarding numbers, however, kept remarkably high, with 15 boarders during Kirkpatrick's last term in Lurgan. There is an interesting comment in a report of the Lord Lieutenant's Inspector, Professor Park, who lauded the work of the school but criticised Lurgan parents for their lack of interest in it. It seems that Kirkpatrick could still attract a fair number of outsiders but he had difficulty in attracting locals.

Academic success in primitive conditions

However, Lurgan College was still one of the most successful of the provincial schools at the time, regularly winning exhibitions and prizes and making the annual Latin Prize virtually a Lurgan possession. Kirkpatrick was clearly a personality. The school papers contain letters from him that show this clearly. He was, on one occasion, forced to write to the Trustees about the state of the plumbing. The school had no running water at the time but there was a well, from which water was pumped up to a cistern at the top of the house. Kirkpatrick found the arrangements totally unsatisfactory and wrote to John Hancock, the Senior Trustee, as follows:

"By an arrangement I have never before seen, two spouting pipes, carrying a heavy supply in rain, were turned into the pump well. What followed this ingenious attempt to keep the well full? That the well got gradually full of vegetable germs which were no sooner pumped up into the cistern and exposed to the sun than they became a solid mass of green vegetation." Typically, Kirkpatrick had gone ahead and seen to the problem, concluding his letter, "The hard water supply may not be so abundant in future but it is better so than drinking vegetable poisons." Unfortunately, Kirkpatrick's enthusiasm may have got the better of him, for he had failed to clear the expenditure with the Trustees in advance and it was to be seven years before he was reimbursed.

The correspondence in the school archives may give us some insight into Kirkpatrick the manager, but information about Kirkpatrick the teacher is almost totally absent. R.M. Jones, whose contribution to the R.B.A.I. centenary book I have already quoted, went on to say of him:

"He became an almost incomparable teacher and under him the boys swept on to victory over their work and to mastery of their subjects and themselves. His pistol never missed fire but he gave the impression that, if it did, as Goldsmith said of Johnston, you would be knocked down by the butt-end." From the Lurgan days we have, however, one brief description. In 1964 E. Lowry Maxwell, who was a pupil at the College from 1892-1897, and who became a pioneer missionary in Nigeria, wrote of his school days in the school magazine. Of Kirkpatrick he said this:

"He was an interesting person, with a touch of sardonic humour, kind enough too. On one occasion I turned him in an essay - we had one to write every Saturday - which I had copied shamelessly from one written long years before by my eldest brother, and which Kirkpatrick had approvingly marked "A", a distinction as rare then as I suppose it is now. My book was returned to me, un marked, with Kirkpatrick's comment at the head of the essay, "The writing is the writing of Lowry, but the language is the language of Joseph."

Apart from this there is little direct evidence from his Lurgan days, but it is clear that his impact on Lurgan pupils was as great as that on the R.B.A.I. boys. The Lewis papers contain a number of letters that would suggest an on-going correspondence between Albert Lewis and his own Headmaster. We can also surmise that there were similar links. For instance, in 1889 a boy named Winston Dugan came to Lurgan College. His father lived at Birr, Co Offaly, and young Winston boarded for a year before going on to public school in England and, ultimately into the army. Here he had a distinguished career, culminating in his appointment as aide-de-camp to King George V. Leaving the army he served for a time as Governor of South Australia, before appointment as Governor of Victoria. When he was elevated to the peerage in 1951, he chose as his title Lord Dugan of Victoria and Lurgan. This speaks volumes for the impact of Kirkpatrick on a youngster whom he had in his care for only 10 months! From other sources we can conclude that Kirkpatrick (whose nickname in Lurgan was The Great Knock) was a very kind-hearted man with his pupils. When the Latin Prize came to Lurgan, as it often did, he would take the whole school on a picnic (in 1892, to Shanes Castle, for instance). On another occasion during a particularly severe winter, Lough Neagh froze over and Kirkpatrick organised a skating expedition for the pupils. This ended somewhat ingloriously for the Headmaster, who had to regain the shore on his hands and knees! Albert Lewis recalled, in a letter to his sons, being greeted at Lurgan Station returning from holiday by a hug from Kirkpatrick - he recalled the whiskers rubbing against his cheeks. It is only fair to note, however, that C.S. Lewis, after one term's experience of Kirkpatrick's methods, wrote to his father accusing him of having a romantic and totally false memory of his days at Lurgan!


One thing remains a mystery about these Lurgan years. The Kirkpatrick whom C.S.Lewis knew was an atheist, or, as Lewis himself described him, "a rationalist of the old high and dry nineteenth century type." When this loss of faith occurred it is impossible to tell. I have already referred to the little bible verse that Kirkpatrick had inscribed on Hermann Rostig's headstone. At the same time he was regularly taking boarders to church every Sunday and giving them religious instruction after regular school hours. These facts were given as evidence to the Endowed Schools Commission when it enquired into the Watts endowment in 1886. There are also a number of references to Kirkpatrick as " Rev. W.T. Kirkpatrick". Although none of these are from Kirkpatrick himself, it is interesting to note that one person who so described him was Lowry Maxwell, whom I have already mentioned. Maxwell also refers to some mature students from Assembly's College who boarded at Lurgan for a term or so in order to receive additional instruction in Greek from Kirkpatrick. One such was Rev Arthur Park, who was there during Maxwell's time as a pupil. All this would suggest to me that Kirkpatrick was, at the very least, keeping his links with Presbyterianism intact. Since many of his pupils were the sons of Presbyterian clergymen, it is quite possible that this stance was purely politic and did not reflect Kirkpatrick's true religious position at the time.

Although I have suggested that "one mystery" remains, in fact there are several events which are difficult to explain about the last years in Lurgan. As I have already said, the Kirkpatrick's had one child, George Louis. Given Kirkpatrick's reputation as a teacher - and I have no doubt that he recognised his own abilities - it is strange that, shortly after his 14th birthday, young Louis was sent as a boarder to Charterhouse. It is not just the fact that he was sent from one very successful school to another that is strange, but also the ability of his parents to be able to afford to send him. One would imagine that being headmaster of a relatively small provincial Grammar school would not be particularly lucrative employment. Nevertheless, Louis Kirkpatrick spent three years (1896-99) at Charterhouse School and when he left school and was articled to Messrs Browett, Lindley and Co, Engine Makers of Patricroft, Manchester his father, only 52 years old, was able to retire and with Mrs Kirkpatrick move to live close to his son. This suggests a man of some means and indeed, when Kirkpatrick died in 1921, he left his wife over £10,000. It was my original view that Kirkpatrick had married for money, but it is clear that this was not the case. Mrs Kirkpatrick's father was a stockbroker in Dublin and, I suspect, very well off. However, he was still in business when Kirkpatrick retired, trading as George Smyth and Son, so this still leaves the question of where Kirkpatrick's money came from. As Headmaster of Lurgan College, Kirkpatrick was paid £50 per quarter by the Trustees (later Governors) of the College. In addition, he received all the fees paid for tuition and boarding. In the early 1880's these were: £50 per annum for boarders; £6.6.0 per annum for dayboys taking the basic "English Course", excluding Classics and Modern Languages; £12.12.0 per annum for day boys taking the English Course with Classics and Modern Languages (the vast majority).

Financial stability

At the height of the school's popularity such fees must have been bringing in more than £1,000 per annum. To be fair to Kirkpatrick, he had to meet the costs of the boarding department as well as pay the wages of two assistant masters and a steward. In addition, until 1883, he was paying all rates and taxes as well as most of the maintenance expenses. These last items were officially the responsibility of the Trustees, but cash flow problems with the Trust Funds in the early years had forced the Trustees to ask the Headmaster to pay these. After 1883 the Trustees resumed their responsibilities. As a result, Kirkpatrick was probably reasonably well off for a late Victorian schoolmaster and was probably in a position to save a considerable sum during his term as Headmaster. There is also the possibility that there was money on the Kirkpatrick side of the family, which enabled him to retire while still relatively young.

In 1899, when he retired, Kirkpatrick went to live at Sharston House, Northenden, Cheshire. As I have suggested, it is generally assumed that the move to England was to allow the Kirkpatrick's to be near their son, although why this became so important in 1899, when it had apparently been quite acceptable to send the boy off to boarding school when he was only 14 I cannot explain. Some correspondence recently has suggested that the Louis's apprenticeship was the result of another Lurgan College connection. One of Kirkpatrick's pupils in the late 1870's had been W.M. Hamilton, son of a Presbyterian Minister from Saintfield . Hamilton was one of Kirkpatrick's early academic successes, and eventually became a Doctor. In the 1890's he was based in Eccles, near Manchester, where he was not only a highly respected G.P. but also a Factory Medical Inspector under the terms of the Factory Acts. Given the evidence we have of Kirkpatrick keeping contact with his former pupils, it seems perfectly possible that Hamilton may have exercised some influence to get Louis his apprenticeship. I must emphasise, however, that this suggestion is purely conjecture. All that we can say with certainty is that the Kirkpatrick's lived at Northenden for the next few years.

No formal records?

Even in "exile", Kirkpatrick could not escape from Lurgan matters. In 1891, the management of the school had been reorganised, with provision for the appointment of representatives to the Board of Governors elected by parents and former pupils. It seems that Kirkpatrick and the existing Governors ( the former Trustees) studiously ignored this provision. After his departure, however, his successor, James Cowan, faced some hostility from a small number of Governors and this led to the decision to activate the arrangements for the election of representative Governors. To do this it was necessary to have a list of pupils who had been at the school. In November 1901, therefore, Kirkpatrick received a request for such a list for his years as headmaster. In a surprisingly brusque response he wrote to the Secretary to the Governors, Mr Fleming, "a complete record of past pupils, such as Governors desire would now be an impossibility." He went on to point out that neither he nor Boulder had ever kept formal records, merely informal lists " in various notebooks", which were destroyed when of no further use. This story has a surprising twist to it. About 10 years ago Messrs Watson & Neill were clearing out some old papers when they came across a set of manuscript notebooks containing lists of pupils for the Kirkpatrick years. Who the author of these notes was we do not know, although it is possible that Kirkpatrick was prevailed upon to produce as complete lists as he could.

One other thing is clear about Kirkpatrick's retirement. He was undertaking private tutoring, probably from the very start. There is evidence in correspondence in the school papers that he was tutoring one or two boys at a time and this would certainly have brought some income into the household. However, as soon as Louis completed his apprenticeship, he went to Germany to study electric street tramways, returning to take up a position with Brush Engineering Co., Loughborough, one of the major producers of electric tramcars in the U.K. At the same time his parents moved, this time to Great Bookham, Surrey. There is a suggestion that Mrs Kirkpatrick did not particularly like the industrial North West and this may well have provoked the move to what is now the stockbroker belt. The practice of taking one or two pupils for tutoring continued. In 1913, Warren Lewis, Albert Lewis's eldest son, arrived at Great Bookham. A boy of some ability, but on his own admission lazy, Warren was given the Kirkpatrick treatment and as a result won a prize scholarship to Sandhurst, being placed 21st out of 201 successful applicants. Warren Lewis himself attributed his success to " a few weeks of Kirk's generous but sparing praise of my efforts, and of his pungent criticisms of the Malvern masters (Lewis had been at Malvern College before going to Great Bookham). When Warren Lewis left the Kirkpatrick's in 1914 he was, almost immediately, replaced by his younger brother. Clive was to stay at Great Bookham until April 1917 when, having won a scholarship to University College, he went to Oxford to study Classics.

It is from C.S.Lewis's autobiography that we learn most about Kirkpatrick the person. From the very beginning, Kirkpatrick set out to stretch the young man intellectually. On the journey from the railway station to the house, Lewis passed some comment about the scenery and promptly found himself under sustained attack from Kirkpatrick for making unsupported and unsupportable assumptions. This sort of experience was to lead Lewis to write, "If ever a man came near to being a purely logical entity that man was Kirk. The idea that human beings should exercise their vocal chords for any purpose except the communicating or discovering of truth was to him preposterous." To start with, Lewis found the Kirkpatrick manner both alarming and unpleasant. As time went on, however, he began to respond. As he wrote, "After being knock down sufficiently often I began to know a few guards and blows and to put on intellectual muscle." By the time C.S. left Great Bookham he was as besotted with the old man as both his father and his brother were! The spell at Great Bookham had another, unplanned, result. It made Lewis into an out and out atheist. His admiration for Kirkpatrick seems to have carried over to his views on religion and, by 1916, he was writing to a friend in Belfast, "I believe in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them and, from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is, all mythologies to give them their proper name, are merely man's own invention." This was to be Lewis's position until his conversion to Christianity in 1931. It is from Lewis that we get our only pen portrait of Kirkpatrick. "He was over six feet tall, very shabbily dressed (like a gardener, I thought), lean as a rake and immensely muscular. His wrinkled face seemed to consist entirely of muscles, so far as it was visible, for he wore a moustache and side whiskers, with a clean shaven chin." Even in retirement, there was evidence of Kirkpatrick's originality. Despite his atheism he always dressed himself in his best suit when he went out to tend the garden on the Sabbath!

By the time Lewis left Great Bookham, Kirkpatrick was 70 years old. It seems probable that C.S. was his last student. The Lewis boys both visited him regularly after the end of the war and make no reference to students in the house. It was during one of these visits that Warren Lewis, the proud possessor of a new box camera, took the snapshot of Mr & Mrs Kirkpatrick that is the only visible record we have of them.

W. T. Kirkpatrick died on 22nd March 1921 and was, to the great sorrow of Albert Lewis, cremated. His wife survived him until 1933. Their son, Louis, left Brush Engineering in 1932 to be General Manager of Bruce Peebles & Co, Engineers, Edinburgh, a position that he held until his death in 1943. Although married, he had no children. So the Kirkpatrick line came to an abrupt end. Of his sister we know nothing, following her departure for the U.S.A. with her husband. Obviously there remained an extended family in Northern Ireland, but again it has proved difficult to get details. There is one other line of enquiry that might be followed up. From the lists of Lurgan College pupils that we have available for Kirkpatrick's last years one name has caught my eye - Daniel Kirkpatrick. Although the school papers for the years 1899-1910 do contain information on family background for many of this boy's contemporaries, there is nothing at all about Daniel, which leads me to suspect that he may have been a relative of William T's, possibly a nephew or second cousin.

Unanswered questions

This is the story, so far as we know it, of William Thompson Kirkpatrick. At the start of this essay I said that Kirkpatrick was one of that myriad of people that really only come to our notice because of their involvement with prominent personalities. We now know a great deal about Kirkpatrick but there are still unanswered questions. For instance, why were a brother and sister from a solid Presbyterian background both married in Church of Ireland churches? Why did Kirkpatrick lose his Christian beliefs? Why did he retire from Lurgan College so early? Some day we may learn the answers to these questions but, for now, I leave you with this little portrait of a remarkable man whose influence can be seen, not only in Lurgan College but also in the writings of his most prominent pupil.