Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lobster

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huntertitus
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Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lobster

Post by huntertitus » Sun Mar 06, 2005 9:41 pm

Anyone remember an short, old man who lived in a narrow room full of ancient army radio transmitters behind the science block - he slept with his jack russel terrier on sacking under the workbenches and always wore army clothes complete with putees - his dog was named "Lobster" (WHY?) and he did not teach at all - he was there while I was at the school between 1969 and 1976

I loved him - he used to emerge from his hovel and scream in falsetto
" LOB! - LOB! - LOB! - LOB! - LOB! - LOB! - LOB! - LOB! - LOB! - LOB! "

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Post by Lamma looker » Sun Mar 06, 2005 10:03 pm

That sounds Rip Kirby. He used to teach Biology and was famous for getting boys to strip off and stand on the science bench so that he could demonstrate human anatomy. He was also i/c the signals section in the Corps, hence the radio transmitters.
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Post by Richard Ruck » Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:47 am

Didn't he keep bees as well?
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Post by Lamma looker » Mon Mar 07, 2005 11:32 am

Yes, he did - I'd forgotten that
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Post by Deb GP » Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:04 pm

He was quite respected in the bee keeping world (or so my Uncle says who's a bee keeper too).

There were some sketches of him above the door into his old lab (New Science school, southern most ground floor lab).
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Post by huntertitus » Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:08 pm

what a ripping name!

imagine his tombstone...

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Post by DavebytheSea » Mon Mar 07, 2005 1:22 pm

He bicycled around the campus for centuries and only popped his clogs quite recently. Some fitting tributes in the Blue.
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Post by Great Plum » Tue Mar 08, 2005 10:09 am

On my juniors he used to plod over from his house on the 2 mile ash road in his nineties with vicious little dog and walking sticks to watch the cricket...
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Post by Lamma looker » Tue Mar 08, 2005 1:46 pm

There is a tribute to him here http://www.oldblues.com/oldbluesscientists.htm under the head "Chemistry teachng at CH in the 1950s"
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Post by Ian.Taylor » Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:12 am

Where did lobster come from - I thought all his dogs were named after holgens.

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Post by J.R. » Fri Mar 11, 2005 3:17 pm

I think all the previous posters have said it all.

I used to help 'Rip' with the bees, which all went well for months, until I eventually received two stings to the right wrist and woke up in the 'Sicker', with Rip sitting beside me.

Yes - It transpired I was extremely allergic to bee stings, and he was distraught that I could no longer help him with the hives.

Anyone remember the hive he had set up outside, against the wall of his lab, where you could open a wooden hatch inside the lab and view the hive through glass ? I spent many happy hours watching them.

Drinking his Mead and his home-made lemonade, made with sulphuric acid ? Wouldn't get away with that now !!!

What a character. He spent his final days in a nursing/rest home near the school, dying well into his nineties !

They broke the mould when he passed away !

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lobster

Post by michael scuffil » Thu Feb 28, 2008 10:28 am

More about Kirby. (See also the thread on "CH dogs")

CF Kirby (his first name was Cecil, but he seems to have been known to colleagues as Bill, and liked to be called Uncle by the boys) taught biology, and I think he was a very good biology teacher indeed. But he was very strange.
He was an Old Blue, and I heard that George Seaman was his swab, though I can't vouch for this. (Does anyone know?) There was an ambivalent relationship between them when Seaman was headmaster. Seaman certainly found his appearance and manner distasteful, but realized his usefulness, e.g. in negotiations with local farmers. He also stepped in at very short notice to be Housemaster of Coleridge B after a little contretemps. Seaman also formally announced the death of Chlorine at a school assembly.
I imagine Kirby was a failed medical student: he certainly had studied medicine, and he certainly was never a doctor.
His dress has been commented on above; the only time he was seen in anything else was at Sunday chapel, when he put on a suit. But 15 minutes after the service he was back in his denims.
His classroom/lab was on the ground floor of the New Science School nearest the Quartermile. Apart from the usual stools, the seating consisted of lots of sections of tree-trunk. From the point of view of safety, the place was a disgrace -- the sinks etc. were full of broken test tubes and mixtures of whatever chemicals anyone chose to throw away. Once he had a cow's head in there for dissection -- all well and good, but it stank a bit after 2 or 3 weeks.
Still, the place was open all hours, and I learnt a lot from exploring it and his books.
For corporal punishment, he kept a bit of wood he called Tickle Toby.
He never used anyone's real name, he had a nickname for all of us.
One of his more dubious eccentricities was his practice of undressing boys to illustrate the biology of the human body. He was so strange that I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on this, but the practice quickly fell victim to George Seaman's vigorously pursued sexual clean-up. From then on, when the "lower limb girdle" was due, the specified victim was instructed to come to the lesson wearing swimming trunks under his breeches.
When the new bachelor house was built behind the Infirmary, he was one of its first occupants. Another was the recently widowed Dr Scott. They were friends (Kirby was one of those who carried Mrs Scott's coffin) but their friendship was strained by Kirby's lack of hygiene. He would for example never wash the saucepan in which he boiled his milk. When the crust got too thick, he would throw away the saucepan and buy a new one. The doctor got his own back by setting up masonic altars in the corridor outside Kirby's room (I had this info from the doctor's son).
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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lobster

Post by jhopgood » Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:08 am

I was never in "Bill" Kirby's class, but 2 of my Barnes B colleagues were, White and Bright, christened by Kirby as the "Star Spangled Sisters".
I don't think I ever spoke to him but he was ever present, cycling past with Boodle, tending his bees or doing something with the Signals section of the CCF.
I wonder how he got on with Van Praag, whose lab was at the other end of the New Science Block?
Barnes B 25 (59 - 66)

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lobster

Post by J.R. » Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:51 pm

Thanks for the memories Michael and JT.

Like John, I was never in one of 'Rips' classes, though I spent many a happy hour in free time in his lab. I'm surprised neither of you mentioned his legendary mead made from his own honey. My absolute love of studying bee-keeping was only cut short when I was found to be severly allergic to bee-stings, spending quite a few days in the sicker.

I never had any reservation about his integrity, given his peculiaraties, though there were certainly a couple of other teachers during my era I had severe doubts about.

In todays PC world, I'm sure his manner and teaching methods would be called into question, though, as I have said on another thread, I always saw him as the father that I lost when I was very young. Must speak volumes of my characteristics today, but I have no regrets.
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lobster

Post by sejintenej » Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:23 pm

J.R. wrote:Thanks for the memories Michael and JT.

Like John, I was never in one of 'Rips' classes, though I spent many a happy hour in free time in his lab. I'm surprised neither of you mentioned his legendary mead made from his own honey. My absolute love of studying bee-keeping was only cut short when I was found to be severly allergic to bee-stings, spending quite a few days in the sicker.

I never had any reservation about his integrity, given his peculiaraties, though there were certainly a couple of other teachers during my era I had severe doubts about.

In todays PC world, I'm sure his manner and teaching methods would be called into question, though, as I have said on another thread, I always saw him as the father that I lost when I was very young. Must speak volumes of my characteristics today, but I have no regrets.
I had him for one year - a highly effective teacher in that one learned a lot without even realising it; lessons were generally enjoyable. As for the mess - it was a marvellous life lesson to always watch where you are going and what you touch. I also considered him of high integrity and I think of all the staff there in my day he would be the only one I could trust if I had a personal problem to discuss.

Bees: I think, JR that your incident happened relatively early in your time there; he was known in the bee-keeping world as having developed a strain of bee which would not sting. In consequence the strain apparently died out.

I don't know how it happened but in Kirby's class there was a Col A boy from the next older year who had a penchant for forgetting his books; I was made responsible for ensuring he brought them though of course the boy would not listen to me. At least I didn't get punished for his failings.
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