Margaret Rose Kirke: Poet, Mother, Inspiration

Alexis Kirke
7 min readDec 14, 2022

I would like to take this opportunity to publish a tribute to my mother Margaret Kirke, who died after a short illness in 2000.

Margaret was many different things to many people: a wife, a friend, a companion, a mentor. To me she was a mother, as loving and adoring as I could wish for. And of course, to me she felt, and still feels, like a huge part of my life. But her life was long and varied, and although I know I and her other children were an deeply important part of her 59 years, there is much more of this unique life for us to celebrate.

Margaret was born in 1941 in Liverpool. She lived at Tithebarn street with her father Donald, mother Margaret and elder brother Bill. Although they were poor, they were a close-knit family. Her father used to take her on trips to local museums, and it is from these trips which her love of antiques came. The family would spend evenings before the fire play-acting with a little stage made out of cardboard. Her mother would often read her poetry, and Margaret went on to become a voracious reader of both poetry and novels.

Her mother passed away when Margaret was eight. Her father brought her up with the help of her elder brother Bill, and she very soon learned to be independent in that atmosphere. In the White household, she was affectionately known as Pearl.

Margaret loved horses at an early age, and also showed a talent for poetry reading and for writing, for which she won awards. She further demonstrated her intelligence at this age, attending Holly Lodge Grammar school where she won an award for her exam performance.

A favourite phrase of Margaret’s when talking about her past was “Me and my Best Friend Kathleen”. She met Kathleen at Grammar School, and they often caught the bus from Liverpool to Wales, to go walking there. After leaving school Margaret and Kathleen worked in Woolworths together.

After leaving school Margaret also met Mick Marsh, a instructor of gunnery, and her brother’s best friend. They were married when Margaret was seventeen, and she gave birth to her son Johnny, and soon after her daughter Jacky.

Mick and Margaret divorced before the end of the sixties and after they parted, she met Nick Kirke, a young officer in the artillery. Some of the things Nick says struck him about her were an unusually vivacious personality which made her the centre of attention wherever she was, and that she was extremely intelligent and articulate. Nick and Margaret were married in 1969 and Margaret gave birth to myself, Alexis, a year later.

Afterwards, there was a 3 year move to Malta. During some of this time, all the wives and children of the British Servicemen were forced to leave the island by Dom Mintoff. But Margaret was later allowed to return to rejoin Nick.

Coming back to Plymouth finally in 1973, Margaret and family lived in Ford Park Lodge and in 1975 she gave birth to her son Nick Junior, whom she affectionately called Boo.

One night a few years later, while Ford Park Lodge was up for sale, Nick thought he heard a burglar in the garden. He went out to investigate and found one Guy Pennington, of Eden Estates, putting up a “For Sale” sign for the house. Thus began a life-long relationship between Margaret and Guy and Guy’s wife, Jane. The relationship blossomed, and Jane credits Margaret with giving her great support in the early years of raising her large family.

During these early years in Plymouth, Margaret spent time working in Dingles Department Store in the Wedgewood section. On one occasion, she decided to show a potential customer just how good quality the Wedgewood plates were. “I’ll show you how strong it is!” she said, smiling and placing a very expensive Wedgewood plate on the floor. I can almost see her enthusiastic face saying “Watch this!” as she stepped on it and it snapped in two!

Margaret was a very important part of the family business “Kirke Properties”, started in 1975. She collected rents, looked after tenants, and practically ran the business between 1988 to 1990. But the business she was most well-known for in Plymouth was the shop Secondhand Rose. In opening this, Margaret introduced a higher quality secondhand shop to the city. The store was so successful, it sold its entire stock on the first day of business!

A plumber called Paul Dorrington had done some work for Kirke Properties early on. He also helped out with the Secondhand Rose shop. Here he became a dear friend of Margaret’s, and later a fellow antique dealer, and they spent many a day hunting round the south-west for cheap house-clearances in the shop van.

The family property business led to much moving about, but Margaret built a home wherever she went, welcoming people in for Christmas and for her renowned parties. She could turn a bare house into an Aladdin’s cave. She was particularly fond of Caxton House in Wilderness Road and it was while living there that she met Terry and Maire Higgins who became very close and supportive friends.

Margaret loved to travel and had some wonderful times travelling with her friends during the 80s. She visited the city of Paris twice with Jane, Maire and her friend Jean Gurry. Margaret adored good food, and as was often the case with her holidays with friends, the initial plan was “where and what are we going to eat”, and everything else was made to fit around it!

Margaret spent a lot of time traveling to see another Paris in the late 80s, her new-born Grandson Paris Marsh, whom Jacky had given birth to, and whom Margaret adored.

Margaret and Nick divorced in 1990, though they remained friends, with Margaret visiting Nick in Prague, and Nick returning to Plymouth for visits. After Caxton House, Margaret moved to Weston Park Road in Peverell, where she opened another Secondhand Rose. By this time, her interest had focused on antiques, and she had become quite an expert in the area.

Also in 1990 Margaret took the then unusual step of taking an Access Course to higher education at age 50. She had a wonderful time and went on to achieve an Honours Degree in History and English in 1994. Many of her friends, Jane and Maire amongst them, say that Margaret’s college achievements were an inspiration to them and gave them a new lease of life when they did a similar thing.

On her first day at college, Margaret met Lorna Farmer, a fellow student in English. They immediately hit it off, and during the last 10 years, Margaret and Lorna became inseparable friends. In 1995 they embarked on a three month trip around Central and Eastern Europe which, as usual, was often focused on the lovely food: particularly the coffee and pastries of the different countries. Incidentally, according to Margaret, Riga in Latvia has the best pastries! Shortly after returning, Lorna became the lodger at Weston Park Road, providing Margaret with much companionship.

In the last five years, one thing which brought much joy to Margaret’s life was writing poetry. She took a very active part in the poetry group at Plymouth Arts centre, and had her poems and reviews published in books and magazines. She also joined a poetry reading group who performed with great success around the South West.

Another thing Margaret enjoyed in recent years was cliff-walking, and her favourite place in the world was Hartland Quay in North Devon. She would stay in the small hotel there, and before going to bed would open all the windows and lie awake listening to the sound of the sea.

Her last big trip was to New York City. She and Lorna came to stay with me for two weeks, and Margaret fulfilled a life-long dream of seeing the Big Apple. And of course, she loved the American Diners and the coffee and bagels.

I hope that these few words have given you some idea of the rich tapestry of Margaret’s life, and reminded you how much she meant to you, and how much you meant to her. Whether Margaret was a wife, a friend, a companion, a mentor or a mother to you, I am sure you remember her as having almost infinite patience and capacity for helping others. Where ever she went she made friends and charmed people. My memories of her as smiling, thoughtful, determined, hugging, and lively, are — I’m sure — similar to yours. On a more personal note I would like to say this: at the great joyful moments to come in my life, I know I will think of Margaret, and — in a way — she will be there with me. Or at least what she achieved and what she bequeathed will be there with me, and will remind me that I am loved.

Thanks mum, I love you.



Alexis Kirke

Alexis Kirke is a screenwriter and quantum/AI programmer. He has PhDs from an arts faculty and from a science faculty.