Obituary – Colin Kirby

It is with sadness that we report the death of Colin Kirby on 1st May. He was 89 years old.

Colin initially worked for the family’s box machine manufacturing business, Kirby’s Engineers based in Walsall, with his late brother Keith and cousin Ken Kirby. In the 1960s and 1970s, most sheet plants owned a Kirby machine sold by Colin – and he built close relationships with his customer base. He also loved nothing more than presenting the Kirby brand at industry exhibitions such as drupa – famously having to present from a film reel in reverse due to an error with the reel loading! Together with his cousin and brother, they patented the world’s first rotary die-cutting system in 1962 and successfully helped many corrugated box plants enter the market with affordable, well-built machines – some of which still run today.

After Kirby’s was sold to Vickers Plc in 1970, Colin continued his career with them until 1974, further to which he and his wife Hilary established Kirby Containers Ltd, where he transitioned into box manufacture, initially using some of the machines he knew so well. Colin’s mantra that “it takes a lifetime to build respect, but minutes to lose it”, made it difficult for him to compete with his box making friends, but Colin navigated this by producing work on their behalf, challenging convention, and introducing revolutionary manufacturing techniques that gave him a USP – thus preserving relationships.

Colin retired from Kirby Cartons in 1994 and the reins of the business were picked up by his sons and daughter until it was sold to Rexam Plc in 1998. In retirement, Colin and his wife Hilary loved nothing more than travelling to their second home in Spain, and also enjoying some of the sights that Colin had seen whilst travelling the world in his machinery sales role, but had never had time to enjoy with his wife.

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