MAURICE KIRK… A WARBIRD WINS PEACE
The story of Maurice Kirk is an amazing ride, interwoven with animals and aeroplanes. Kirk, the veterinarian-cum-pilot, had an emergency landing at the Boscobel Air-Strip in St. Ann after his single- engine World War II warbird J3 Piper Cub US Army-owned Liberty Girl (George Patton flew it in 1944) experienced some technical difficulties.
“I landed in Montego Bay Wednesday evening and had planned to fly to Kingston the next day,” shared Kirk early Friday morning inside the Norman Manley airport’s private jet terminal, “but developed engine trouble and decided to make an unscheduled landing. On final approach I realised that the runway was full of spikes and concrete (I reckon to keep the drug planes out) – it was yet another close call.”
It was indeed, but then again the 62-year-old Kirk seems used to close encounters of the not-so-friendly and extraordinary type.
“I was robbed by five men in Havana, Cuba, and ended up in a hospital. As I healed and waited for the weather to improve to fly out, wife and friends warned me not to fly out again my wife and friends warned me not to fly Jamaica (too dangerous, they insisted) but head instead for Cayman… the wind which was not so strong dictated that I make a stop in Jamaica. I’m glad that I did ‘cos it’s been an unforgettable experience… all positive from my night at The Gloucestershire in Montego Bay to my night in Kingston on Thursday. I even got help with oil and fuel from a complete stranger (Joey Issa of Cool Group).” All a refreshing change from a life of constant drama.
Just four years ago Kirk lost an appeal at the Privy Council to maintain his right to practice as a second generation veterinary surgeon, a career he had pursued for 35 years. With regard to his legal woes, the Englishman retains the record for the longest contempt of court sentence in modern British history and the longest hunger strike in the Channel Islands.
The aforementioned achievements are not his only records, since he was the first man to parachute and jump to his own wedding when he married Janet Mary Bolwig in 1970. Several years and three children later the marriage ended in divorce with, according to Kirk, “both sets of solicitors exploiting the situation”.
His love of aviation grew further with the acquisition of a British commercial pilot’s the license, which inspired him to take the Air Transport Pilots and Flying Instructors courses. It was perhaps akin to a crash landing when Kirk was convicted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 1980 resulting in a six-month prison sentence… this time it was a record of a different kind.
The lawyer, the last he swore he would ever employ, estimated, at worst, the sentence would be a £100 fine. The incident, in November 1979, was that he was found guilty of flying an aircraft while drunk, contrary to Articles 55 and 56 of the Air Navigation Order.
Still, he maintained that he was neither the pilot confirmed that he was neither the pilot confirmed by documentation and evidence nor was drunk.
His ordeal played out like a series of action thrillers as the police, commissioned by CAA Investigation Branch, on several occasions urged a fireman – one of Kirk’s acquaintances – to give evidence against Kirk or else he (the fireman) would lose his license.
He (the fireman) had filed the flight plan from France, logged the hours as P1, sat in the left-hand seat and had operated the radio.
It was not until weather conditions and a mistake by Southampton Radar Operator that Kirk took over the radio and navigation.
He remained imprisoned for the next year, first for CAA case then for a dubious conviction brought by the Somerset Police and then on a legendary remand for Customs and Excise.
Kirk’s biography points out, too, that Scotland Yard introduced the theory to the CAA that Kirk was smuggling drugs.
Throughout his imprisonment Kirk was dragged between at least six prisons during this time, which inspired him to write a book in an effort to expose the utterly corrupt judicial system.
Prison behind him, if only by a few days, Kirk migrated to the Channel Islands. His stay on the island was plagued by more short prison sentences, which carried no conviction.
Naturally, the stints in prison made for a poor veterinary business, and Kirk’s practice was sold illegally while his business partner was mentally ill.
This life would be further plagued by more prison sentences; being smuggled out of home despite police surveillance and perpetually chasing the dream to be airborne.
These days, prison is history and flying remains important to Kirk, who on January 3 flew to Florida and it still adamant about making it around the world albeit “a tired, arthritic man with seven broken joints”.