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John Henderson Kirkhope (1900–1979)

by Carolyn Rasmussen

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Elizabeth Kilgour Kirkhope

Elizabeth Kilgour Kirkhope (1896-1978), headmistress, and John Henderson Kirkhope (1900-1979), company director, were born on 8 February 1896 and 19 August 1900 at Carlton, Melbourne, the first and fourth of nine children of John Kirkhope, clergyman, and his wife Elizabeth Kilgour, née Corr, who had both emigrated from Scotland in 1895 to establish a branch of the Catholic Apostolic Church in Victoria. Elizabeth attended Lauriston Girls' School, Malvern, run by the Irving sisters, grand-daughters of Edward Irving, founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church, and daughters of M. H. Irving. In 1914 Elizabeth was dux and head prefect. She majored in mathematics at the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1918; Dip.Ed., 1919; M.A., 1920) before returning to Lauriston as a teacher.

Having taught in London, in 1928 Miss Kirkhope was appointed headmistress of Lowther Hall Church of England Girls' Grammar School, Essendon, where she managed to raise academic standards while keeping the ailing school afloat during the Depression. In late 1933 she went back to Lauriston, purchasing it outright in 1935 and taking up residence. She guided and strengthened the school until 1948 when, with the aid of her brothers John and William, she incorporated it as a non-profit-making company. In 1956 she handed over the academic affairs of the school to a former pupil, but remained resident principal until 1964.

A highly qualified teacher for a girls' school of the 1920s, Miss Kirkhope was active in the development of her profession. For many years she was a senior executive-officer of the Association of Headmistresses of Girls' Secondary Schools of Victoria; in addition, she served on the hard-won Women Teachers' Wages Board from its establishment in 1946 until 1960. Closely involved with Invergowrie Homecraft Hostel, Hawthorn—of which her sister Margaret Ellen (1899-1983) was principal in 1938-67—and with the training of teachers for independent schools at Mercer House, she was also a member of the Council of Public Education. She helped to arrange the first school broadcasts by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

Miss Kirkhope was a skilled administrator who encouraged girls with academic potential, but not at the expense of educating the whole person or of other students. An innately family-oriented and frugal woman, she possessed a warm, genuine interest in her pupils which did not diminish with time. She could appear forbidding and aloof, but was generally remembered with affectionate respect for being fair and progressive. In her younger years she played hockey; in later life she developed her skills in needlework, tapestry, crochet and knitting. She died on 26 November 1978 at Canterbury and was buried with Anglican rites in Fawkner cemetery.

John Kirkhope, the eldest son, was educated at University High School. In 1916 he began work with Holmes & McCrindle, chartered accountants, while studying at the Working Men's College, Melbourne. He became a partner in the firm in 1924. At the Catholic Apostolic Church, Carlton, on 4 February 1937 he married Beatrice Lindley Perry; she died in childbirth the following year. In 1939 John commenced separate practice and thereafter accepted a succession of directorships. A councillor (1955-64) and vice-chairman (1962-64) of the Victorian branch of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, he played a prominent role in successful moves to reform the Victorian Companies Act (1958, 1961) and in the implementation of uniform company legislation throughout Australia in the 1960s. He was a keen fisherman, an enthusiastic golfer and tennis player, and a dedicated member of his church. Survived by his son, he died on 17 November 1979 at Gordon, Sydney, and was buried in Northern Suburbs cemetery.

His younger brother William (1902-1983) was also a chartered accountant. He served in the Australian Imperial Force in 1939-44 and rose to temporary colonel in the pay corps. In 1942 he was appointed O.B.E. After World War II he was treasurer (1945-57) of the Victorian branch of the Liberal Country Party and a member (1955-57) of the board of business administration of the Department of Defence. A director of numerous companies, he was chairman of Mayne Nickless Ltd and a commissioner (1968-75) of the State Savings Bank of Victoria. He died on 1 August 1983; his sister Margaret died four days later.

Select Bibliography

  • J. N. Marshall, A Jubilee History 1928-1978 (Melb, 1978)
  • A. D. Pyke, The Gold, the Blue (Melb, 1983)
  • Lauristonian, 1964, 1967
  • Age (Melbourne), 18 Apr 1964
  • Lauriston Girls' School Archives
  • private information.

Citation details

Carolyn Rasmussen, 'Kirkhope, John Henderson (1900–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 18 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


19 August, 1900
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


17 November, 1979 (aged 79)
Gordon, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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