David Kirke, a flamboyant British thrill-seeker who carried out — and extra necessary, survived — the primary trendy bungee soar, died on Oct. 21 at his house in Oxford. He was 78.
His loss of life was confirmed by his brother Hugh Potter, who stated no trigger had been decided.
Mr. Kirke, an irrepressible daredevil and prankster, helped discovered the Harmful Sports activities Membership on the College of Oxford within the late Nineteen Seventies. He inadvertently led this tiny band of eccentrics, plucked from the higher rungs of British society, right into a historic plunge off the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England, on April Fools’ Day in 1979.
Inspiration got here partly from a rite-of-passage ritual on the South Pacific island nation Vanuatu referred to as land diving, during which younger males leap from excessive towers, utilizing vines to interrupt their fall. Mr. Kirke opted for an elastic rope utilized by the army to assist fighter jets land on plane carriers.
“We hadn’t examined it or something like that,” Mr. Kirke stated in a 2019 interview with the information website BristolLive. “We had been known as the Harmful Sports activities Membership, and testing it first wouldn’t have been significantly harmful.”
Clad in a high hat and tails, with a bottle of Champagne in hand, Mr. Kirke, who was nursing a hangover from an all-night occasion, was the primary to make the leap on that fateful day. The opposite jumpers — Alan Weston, Tim Hunt and Simon Keeling — “waited to see what would occur to me,” Mr. Kirke stated in a 2019 interview with ITV Information. “After I began bouncing up once more, all of them jumped.”
Police promptly arrested the jumpers, charged them with breach of peace and briefly tossed them behind bars earlier than letting them off with a small advantageous. Jail was hardly a traumatic expertise, Mr. Kirke instructed ITV: “They had been the one police power I’ve ever identified to deliver half-empty bottles of purple wine, from the occasion, in a brown paper bag and provides it to us in jail.”
Little did they know that their playful prank would encourage a preferred pastime around the globe. A video of a plunge from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco by members of the membership within the Eighties impressed a New Zealander named A.J. Hackett to develop managed strategies for bungee (alternately spelled bungy) leaping and construct a thriving enterprise that popularized the game.
Fortune, nonetheless, was not the purpose for Mr. Kirke, a author by commerce whose jobs included ghostwriting a newspaper column for a politician. As a substitute, he would discover fame with a lifetime of extravagant stunts — every seemingly extra outlandish than the final.
David Kirke was born David Antony Christopher Potter on Sept. 26, 1945, within the village of Shropshire, within the West Midlands of England. He was the eldest of seven kids of Arnold Potter, a schoolmaster, and Fraye (Kirke) Potter, a live performance pianist from an illustrious army household. For causes that stay unclear, he adopted his mom’s maiden identify as his surname whereas finding out at Oxford.
Full details about his survivors was not instantly accessible.
Whereas not strictly higher class by British requirements, the Potters managed a greater than snug existence. As Self-importance Honest famous in a 2013 characteristic article, “The household wintered in Switzerland and summered in France, employed 15 servants and drove round in a classic Rolls-Royce — all on the final second of British historical past when it was attainable to take pleasure in such luxuries and nonetheless be thought-about center class.”
In 1964, Mr. Kirke enrolled in Corpus Christi Faculty, Oxford, the place he studied psychology and philosophy. After graduating, he went to work for the writer Calder & Boyars in London and edited a poetry journal.
His life took a tragic flip, his brother stated in an e mail, when his girlfriend was run over and killed by a bus. Mr. Kirke stop his job and returned to town of Oxford, the place he fell in with a very colourful crowd.
The thought for the membership arose, Self-importance Honest reported, on an adventure-seeking journey with a buddy, Edward Hulton, to the Swiss Alps, the place they met a British department-store scion named Chris Baker, who was dabbling with hold gliders. Mr. Kirke cajoled Mr. Baker into letting him take a spin on the contraption, and after his exhilarating flight the lads started musing over drinks about beginning a membership to discover new daredevil sports activities.
“What we hated was the way in which that formal sports activities had all these little, necessary bourgeois instructors saying, ‘You’ve obtained to get by means of five-part exams to do that,’” Mr. Kirke instructed the journal.
Straddling the road between hazard sports activities and efficiency artwork, his stunts included steering a carousel horse down a ski slope within the Swiss Alps; piloting an inflatable kangaroo suspended by balloons over the English Channel; skateboarding among the many working bulls of Pamplona, Spain; and arranging a sit-down meal on the rim of an erupting volcano on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent.
Whereas his preliminary soar in Bristol made him well-known, Mr. Kirke had little time to ponder questions of posterity. As he tipped off the bridge, he instructed BristolLive, “The principle factor going by means of my thoughts was ‘Whoooppeeee.’”