Matthew Kirby was born in Sunderland, England on 4 September 1886, the only son and fourth of the five children of Matthew and Alice Kirby. His father was a seaman (and member of the Royal Naval Reserve). Kirby became a house painter and by 1911 he was living and working in Harrogate. In the third quarter of 1911, Kirby married Mary Ann McCoy in Sunderland.
In 1912 or 1913 Kirby emigrated to the United States; he was followed on 27 October 1913 by his wife. The couple lived at 546 West 132nd Street in Upper Manhattan, New York City and Kirby found work as a painter, although he found himself unemployed in 1917, which may have prompted his enlistment.
He and his wife travelled north to Toronto and set up home on Parliament Street. Kirby then enlisted for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 18 June 1917 and travelled to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu; he was allocated the number 2006171. After five months’ training, Sapper Kirby was admitted to the Military Hospital at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on 29 November 1917 suffering from a typhoid ulcer. The ulcer perforated on 6 December and he was operated on at midnight that night, apparently successfully, Unfortunately, his condition worsened on 8 December and he died the following day, 9 December 1917. His body was returned to New York and he was buried in Second Calvary Cemetery, Woodside. His grave, in Section 43, Row 13CC, Grave 10, is in the south-east part of the cemetery and is marked by a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone.
He is commemorated on page 269 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 14 June. Having served only in Canada he was not entitled to any war medals. The memorial plaque and scroll and the Memorial Cross were sent to his widow.
1. (Back) Matthew Neal Kirby (24 August 1860-1928) married Alice Raine (1861-1894) in Sunderland in 1880: Charlotte (later Cruddas) (1880-1937); Annie (1882-NK); Elizabeth (1884-NK); Margaret (1891-NK).
2. (Back) Mary Ann McCoy (27 November 1888-NK). Mary Ann Kirby became a United States citizen on 9 June 1930. She continued to live in New York and worked as a supervisor in a department store. The couple had no children.