Yorkshire Post

Peter Knight

Top so­lic­i­tor and hus­band of star Pat Kirk­wood


PETER KNIGHT, one of Bri­tain’s lead­ing so­lic­i­tors for four decades, the for­mer pres­i­dent of Brad­ford and Bin­g­ley Build­ing So­ci­ety, and for 26 years the hus­band of the cel­e­brated stage and screen star Pat Kirk­wood, has died aged 94.

In spite of his dis­tinc­tion as a lawyer – the late Mas­ter of the Rolls, Lord Den­ning, once de­scribed him as “a so­lic­i­tor of great as­tute­ness, pre­ci­sion and in­tegrity” – it was his mar­riage to Miss Kirk­wood that brought him to pub­lic promi­nence.

He was seen on tele­vi­sion sit­ting be­side her in the This Is Your Life trib­ute to her in July 1994, and he used his con­sid­er­able le­gal acu­men to de­mand re­trac­tions, apolo­gies and amend­ments to a se­ries of books and tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­taries that sug­gested Miss Kirk­wood had a sex­ual li­ai­son with the Duke of Ed­in­burgh.

On one oc­ca­sion he went to Buck­ing­ham Palace to con­front the Duke’s ad­vis­ers about con­tin­u­ing slurs on her rep­u­ta­tion that were ru­moured to have lost her of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion in the Hon­ours list.

James Peter Knight was born in Man­ning­ham, Brad­ford, the youngest of the three sons of a Brad­ford stuff (wool) mer­chant, James Young Knight, and his wife, Fanny Samp­son. He was the great-nephew of the Vic­to­rian drama critic Joseph Knight.

Mr Knight was ed­u­cated at Pock­ling­ton School and Leeds Uni­ver­sity where he gained his bach­e­lor of law de­gree af­ter study­ing Ro­man and con­sti­tu­tional law.

When he was 16, he en­tered his un­cle’s Brad­ford law firm, Samp­son, Horner & Co, and in 1938 was ad­mit­ted as a so­lic­i­tor of the Supreme Court. He even­tu­ally be­came se­nior part­ner and one of the county’s lead­ing lawyers.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War he served in the Duke of Welling­ton’s ( West Rid­ing) Reg­i­ment, ris­ing rapidly to the rank of cap­tain, and fi­nally to ma­jor. It was in regimental uni­form that he mar­ried Gwen­do­line Parker, from Bin­g­ley, in 1939. A daugh­ter, Carolyn, was born in 1942, and a son, Ni­cholas, in 1945.

Af­ter de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion in 1947, Mr Knight re­turned to his fam­ily law firm. In 1952, he joined the board of Bin­g­ley Build­ing So­ci­ety, later to merge with the Brad­ford Eq­ui­table Build­ing So­ci­ety.

In 1965, he be­came se­nior part­ner in the law firm af­ter his part- ner, Ge­orge Bar­ber, com­mit­ted sui­cide. He also be­came chair­man of Brad­ford Civic So­ci­ety, pres­i­dent of Brad­ford Law So­ci­ety, and Wor­ship­ful Mas­ter of Pri­ory Lodge of Freema­sons in Bin­g­ley.

In 1978, af­ter 40 years as a so­lic­i­tor he re­tired as se­nior part­ner, even­tu­ally be­ing suc­ceeded by his son, Ni­cholas.

Mr Knight be­came vice-pres­i­dent of Brad­ford and Bin­g­ley Build­ing So­ci­ety in 1977, and two years later was ap­pointed Pres­i­dent.

In 1980, his wife of 41 years died from can­cer. He was dev­as­tated and went on hol­i­day alone to Por­tu­gal’s Al­garve, and there, at a din­ner party in La­gos, met the stage and screen star Pat Kirk­wood, who a year ear­lier had di­vorced her third hus­band, the ac­tor, com­poser and play­wright Hu­bert Gregg.

Mr Knight, who was tall, com­mand­ing and charm­ing, de­scribed him­self as “quite en­chanted, as if some spell had been cast over me”. They were mar­ried in Gi­bral­tar on March 3, 1981, to the ini­tial shock of his chil­dren.

When Miss Kirk­wood was di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease, and ad­mit­ted to an Ilk­ley nurs­ing in 2004, her hus­band im­mersed him­self in the writ­ing of a whim­si­cal story, Flum­ma­did­dle, set in North York­shire, which was pub­lished in 2007.

Af­ter Miss Kirk­wood’s death on Christ­mas Day 2007, Mr Knight au­tho­rised the re­lease of letters be­tween his wife and the Duke of Ed­in­burgh that ap­peared to show that the al­leged af­fair was a myth.

In 2008, when Mr Knight pri­vately pub­lished his mem­oirs, Piety for the Past, he crit­i­cised the Palace’s fail­ure to de­fend Miss Kirk­wood by is­su­ing a firm de­nial of the rumour.

In 2009, he pub­lished a third book, A Vic­to­rian Gen­tle­man, a bi­og­ra­phy of his grand­fa­ther, Brad­ford wool mer­chant, John Pike Knight.

He is sur­vived by his son and his daugh­ter, five grand­chil­dren, and five great-grand­chil­dren.

Mr Knight’s fu­neral will take place on Thurs­day at 12.30pm at All Saints’ Parish Church, Bin­g­ley.

 ??  ?? EN­CHANT­MENT: Above, Peter Knight with Pat Kirk­wood in their gar­den in Bin­g­ley in 1999. Right, Mr Knight as a young of­fi­cer in the Duke of Welling­ton’s (West Rid­ing) Reg­i­ment in 1939.
EN­CHANT­MENT: Above, Peter Knight with Pat Kirk­wood in their gar­den in Bin­g­ley in 1999. Right, Mr Knight as a young of­fi­cer in the Duke of Welling­ton’s (West Rid­ing) Reg­i­ment in 1939.
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 ??  ?? ROGER SCOTT: Re­spected by all who knew him.
ROGER SCOTT: Re­spected by all who knew him.

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