F J Kirby (1855 – 1941)

Francis Joshua Kirby

Francis Joshua Kirby was born in 1855 in Great Stanmore, and baptized at Forest Gate Chapel in 1884. He started preaching during the early 1890s, and was “sent out” by his home church in 1897. By this time he was already on the Committee of The Gospel Standard. He became the pastor of Mount Zion, Ramsgate, in April 1901, having previously worked as a carpenter with his father, then as a builder, and a shoe dealer. A magazine called “The Calvinistic Pulpit” was commenced in 1890, but only lasted for five years. When it ceased, Kirby’s brother Fred Kirby, who was in the publishing business (he published The Gospel Standard) urged FJ Kirby to start a new magazine that would incorporate the title of “The Calvinistic Pulpit.” The first issue of The Christian’s Pathway and Calvinistic Pulpit appeared in January 1896. At the same time Kirby served on the Gospel Standard Committee, working to ensure that advertisements were genuine, and books advertised were sound. Handling matters concerning ministers on the Gospel Standard List also fell to him.

In 1912 Kirby resigned from the Gospel Standard Committee ‘as a protest in the interest of fair treatment and justice.’ In 1927 Kirby was expelled from the Gospel Standard List but he continued to consider himself as part of the ‘Gospel Standard’ section of Strict Baptists. He remained as editor of the Pathway until 1932, when advancing years led him to give up the editorship. The outbreak of the Second World War meant the evacuation of Ramsgate and the resulting closure of the Chapel. Kirby was evacuated, owing to his age, retiring to Jarvis Brook, but eventually he returned home and died there on 24th December 1941. Kirby’s life was described as “one of active interest in the welfare of the denomination”, but he was “often misjudged and misunderstood.” He was well-known in the churches of the north as well as the south of England.

Judith James