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Kirby is said to have received his M.A. in England, probably at Cambridge, before converting to Catholicism at Louvain and entering Douai College in 1576. He was ordained a priest at Cambrai in September 1577 and left Rheims for England on May 3, 1578; however, he returned on July 15 and went to Rome. There he took the college oath at the English College, Rome , 23 April, 1579. In June of 1580, he was arrested on landing at Dover, and committed to the Gatehouse, Westminster. On December 4, he was transferred to the Tower, where he was subjected to the torture known as the "Scavenger's Daughter" for more than an hour on December 9. Kirby was condemned on November 17, 1581, and from April 2 until the day he died, he was put in irons. With him died Thomas Cottam, William Filby, and Laurence Richardson. All were later beatified in 1885 by Pope Leo XIII. He was canonized as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970.
- This article incorporates text from the entry Bl. William Filby in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.
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