In Memoriam - Brian Irwin (1931 – 2022)

February 09, 2022 at 2:30 PM

Father, husband, friend, teacher and remembered most fondly to the Saint Kentigern community as a visionary leader who left a legacy that benefitted many, past and present.

It is with great sorrow that we mark the passing of the second Principal of Saint Kentigern School, Brian Irwin, on Wednesday 5 January 2022. Brian will be remembered for his profound contribution in shaping the school as a place of quality education for young boys.

Brian was born and brought up on a family farm at the northern end of the Awhitu Peninsula. He pursued his higher education at Auckland University, gained units towards a Bachelor of Arts degree before switching to the Teacher’s College of Auckland for two years where he gained a Trained Teacher Certificate. He continued a third-year specialist training in Physical Education at Dunedin Teachers’ College, where he met his wife, Judith Irwin.

Brian began his teaching career as an area advisor in Physical Education and Health in both North Auckland and the Auckland Region and taught at several schools in Auckland before being appointed Deputy Principal at Owairoa Primary School in Howick. He then went back to full time study and completed his degree. In 1973, Brian won the prestigious Fullbright grant which took the Irwin family to Kentucky, USA. Following his overseas stint, Brian returned to New Zealand to helm his first Headmaster position at Beachlands School and subsequently Glendowie Primary. In 1979, Brian began his 15-year journey at Saint Kentigern.

Brian’s Christian faith runs deep in his veins; an elder of Howick Presbyterian Church and then Somervell, and a spiritual leader of Saint Kentigern School. He believed that Christian values were fundamental to the school’s philosophy, promoted Monday chapels, daily devotions, family services and Christian Education classes including the creation of a Senior Teacher position for Christian Education.

An avid sportsman, Brian’s sporting interest spans across a wide domain and is seen through efforts to increase participation of boys in sport throughout his years at the school.

Brian devoted much of his time to creating a conducive learning space as evident through significant building development between 1986 and 1989 which included the construction of the hall, the upgrade of the Senior School block with arches, the two-classroom block, the caretakers house, the new classroom and art room block, the fernery, the relocation of the Red Barn and the building of the Junior School and the Music School. Brian’s vision for creating and expanding was always coupled with careful research which saw major expansion projects well complemented with existing buildings being put to appropriate alternate use.

An advocate of hard work and high standards, Brian encouraged students to strive for excellence and cling on to the values of courtesy, respect and obedience. He took a keen interest in every boy; assessed their speech, heard them audience read, spent time in the playground or on the side-line as an enthusiastic supporter during interschool activities, be it cultural, sports or academic. He also engendered immense respect among teachers whom he valued and at every opportunity complimented for working well as a team, giving their time generously, providing well planned and stimulating programmes and maintaining professional growth by undertaking personal study. Under his stewardship, syndicates were formed with leaders appointed to senior positions, and professional development opportunities promoted.

During his tenure, Brian oversaw the reduction in class sizes, streaming in the intermediate years, introduction of specialist teachers in some areas, involvement in interschool competitions, and the initiation of the use of computers, and modern teaching aids.  Upon completion of the Malcolm Bracegirdle Music School, he also inaugurated the Itinerant Music Programme and instituted a series of arts activities including the production of school operettas.

In his 15 years as Principal, Brian has helped laid a strong foundation for the school with extensive building projects, and shift in teaching methodology on the back of growth in school roll.

Brian will be dearly missed by the Saint Kentigern family. It is with profound sadness that we extend our sincere condolences to his wife Judith, his children, David, Deborah, Lynette, Stephanie and their families for their loss.



Mackie, J. (2009). Sons of Kentigern: A History of Saint Kentigern School 1959 – 2009. Saint Kentigern Trust Board.

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