John William Gordon-Kirkby was born in Gibraltar on 26 August 1936. His parents lived in La Linea, Spain, though they went across to the Colonial Hospital in Gibraltar so that John could be born on British soil.
Due to the political situation in Spain at that time, the family moved to Tangier in Morocco in 1939 where they farmed dairy goats. The Second World War broke out soon after John's sister was born in Tangier, and the family decided to remain there. Following Moroccan independence in 1956 and his father's death in 1959 John began to think about migrating to Australia. The idea of immigrating to Australia had first been planted by John's father who had fought alongside Australians in World War One and liked them and their egalitarian approach to the military organisation.
In order to qualify for assisted passage John had to live in the UK for six months, however his application was rushed through due to being sponsored by an Australian couple from Moorabbin, Les and Lita Shanley. John's sister had met the Shanley's in London and introduced them to John as they were taking an extended holiday to Morocco. Les had been a public servant and worked with the Customs Department in what is now the Immigration Museum. John is forever indebted to their memory.
John came to Australia on an assisted passage scheme as a 'Ten Pound Pom' arriving in Melbourne on 26 November 1961 on the P&O Liner Orsova. His mother and sister followed soon after. As was standard practice his passport was taken in exchange for an identity document in order to assure he remained in Australia for the minimum two years, after which his passport was returned.
John joined the public service and worked in Papua and New Guinea as a patrol officer from 1964-1978. He then worked in remote central Australia for many years.
John speaks of his embarrassment at not becoming an Australian citizen earlier. He finally did so in 1987.