Papers of William T. Quirk

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The content consists of numerous poems written by Quirk (Manx dialect poems, published poems and poetry anthology) as well as various essays, talks (including radio talks), addresses, memoirs and newspaper cuttings (including Christian Viewpoint). Other items include journals 1954-1960 & 1960-1972, a typescript novel and an appointment book (dates & places at which talks, sermons, recitals etc. had been given by Quirk, 1918-1977).

Also present are plays (also Manx dialect plays), operettas for children, Quirk’s ‘My Operetta Book’ (contains lists of characters, lists of fairy tales, lists of performances, operetta programmes, press reports, correspondence, photographs & sketches), pantomime text, sonnets, Manx carols, music sheets and photocopies of word and music sheets written by Quirk for his daughter Heather (based on fairy tales with hand painted illustrations).

Further items include 5 sketch books, a framed sketch of Onchan Village (1941), Christmas cards showing pen sketches of various places in the British Isles and a photograph and obituary of Quirk.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Thomas Quirk (1908-1977), Manx poet and teacher, was the son of William James Quirk (c.1877-1966), grocer and provisions merchant and Margaret Helena née Corrin (c.1876-1945). William (affectionately known as WT) was educated at Hanover Street and Douglas High School before leaving the Island to complete his education at Westminster College, London. Returning to the Island WT took up a teaching position at Demesne Road School, Douglas and then a position at Onchan Primary School. In 1935 he married Gertrude Cowell (1910-1988) and the couple had one daughter in 1938.

During the Second World War Quirk served as a radar mechanic in the Royal Air Force and was stationed in the village of Cranwell, Lincolnshire. After the war he returned to his teaching position in Onchan and later taught at Ballakermeen and Douglas High Schools. In 1948 he became headmaster at Foxdale School and in 1954 he was appointed headmaster of Victoria Road School in Castletown, where he remained until his retirement in 1971.

Quirk was extremely proud of Manx culture, serving on various committees such as the Manx Musical Festival, Isle of Man Council of Churches and the Manx Radio religious broadcasts sub-committee. His love of the Manx culture also inspired his skills as a poet, taking inspiration from his surroundings. His poetry expresses deep imagery and also highlights his strong Christian beliefs. He was a passionate follower of the Island’s national poet T.E. Brown (1830-1897) and regularly organised concerts centred on Brown’s work. WT’s poems were regularly published in Manx newspapers the Isle of Man Weekly Times and the Mona’s Herald and some were published in the Cork Weekly Examiner and This England magazine. He wrote verses (mostly sonnets) in Manx dialect and he published small booklets containing mixtures of his own and others’ work. Quirk also composed numerous musical operettas which were performed by adults and children.

Religion played a major role in Quirk’s life: he regularly preached for the Methodist Church, wrote his ‘Christian Viewpoint’ articles for the Manx Star and wrote tracts for the Methodist Missionary Society. In addition he wrote settings of the Lord’s Prayer (one was written in Manx Gaelic), of the 23rd Psalm and of the prayer of Ignatius Loyola.

On 19 June 1977, after preaching at the morning service in Onchan Methodist Church he fell ill and died later that evening. His funeral service (followed by cremation) at Trinity Methodist Church, Douglas, was attended by many.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im.

Other Finding Aids

Box list available for consultation

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Dollin Kelly’s (ed.) New Manx Worthies (2006: 399-401).

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), June 2016.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes a collection of Quirk's poetry (reference numbers: M 29608 & MS 10780), sermons and articles penned by Quirk (reference number: MS 08547) and an essay (reference number: MS 08886).