William Kirby 1913/14 season at Merthyr Town
William Kirby was born on 21st June 1882 in Preston.
He was known throughout his career as “Sunny Jim”.
His first club was Emmanuel Rovers but he was soon spotted and signed for Football League giants Preston North End in November 1900. A spell at local team Oswaldtwistle Rovers followed.
Preston North End retained his registration between 1901 and 1911 and so his time with four Southern League clubs in that period were in effect loan spells.
August 1902 Sunny Jim signed for Swindon Town where he played 33 games and showed his potential as a forward by scoring 11 goals but very soon he was on the move again this time to the East End of London where he signed for West Ham United scoring on his debut and once again proving a useful signing by scoring 11 goals in 36 appearances. However at the end of the 1903/04 season he returned to the County Ground where he resumed his career with Swindon Town scoring 4 goals in 21 games in the red shirt.
It was in March 1905 that Sunny Jim was to make his career move by heading to the south coast and signing for Portsmouth where he finally laid down some roots. William Kirby stayed at Fratton Park for 7 seasons where he once again hit the target regularly scoring 107 goals in 277 appearances. His best campaign was 1906/07 where he hit the back of the net on 28 occasions to be the club’s top scorer in that campaign. Sunny Jim received a benefit of £220.00 in October 1910 after reaching 100 goals for Pompey for whom he hit 5 hat tricks and 14 braces.
By 1911 Preston North End had recognised his talent and recalled him to Deepdale to start his Football League career. Over two seasons he scored 22 goals in 56 appearances for the Lilywhites. He was top scorer in the 1911/12 season and even got sent off v Bradford Park Avenue on 23rd November 1912. He finished his time at North End with a Division 2 championship medal.
As in 1913 he was on the move once again this time to Devon to sign for Exeter City in the Southern League. For the first time he failed to hit the target and played only 5 matches and by October he had transferred to Penydarren Park to register for Merthyr Town. Sunny Jim is included in the team photo taken in front of the Athletic Club although he is dressed in a suit and not dressed for a match. Sunny Jim did however play 29 times for the Romans and managed to score on 6 occasions.
William Kirby served in the Royal Engineers during the Great War and when invalided out of the army he went to work at Woolwich Arsenal. He continued playing football appearing for both Croydon Common and Brentford however he was unhappy with conditions at his work place so he re-enlisted with his old regiment in 1917.
William Kirby was killed near Ypres in Belgium on 3rd October 1917 serving as a Private with the 6th (Pioneer) Battalion of the Royal Engineers attached to the East Yorkshire Regiment. He is buried in the Bard Cottage Cemetery. He left behind a wife and five children under the age of 11 years.