Philip Kirkup was born on the 14th of December 1859 in Birtley, County Durham. He was educated at Brampton and continued his studies in mining at Durham College of Physical Science (later Armstrong College), Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After this he was apprenticed to Thomas Douglas of Peases West Collieries, Crook (County Durham). Kirkup spent a short time at Lofthouse Colliery, Leeds, later acting as an assistant at Littleburn and Esh Collieries.
Kirkup’s first managerial appointment was in 1865 at Radcliffe Colliery in Northumberland. In 1887 he became Manager of Cornsay Colliery. Following this, in 1899 Kirkup was appointed agent of Charles Perkins’ collieries in Birtley, which were later known as Pelaw Main and Ravensworth Collieries. In 1908 Birtley Iron Works came under Kirkup’s control and he was appointed general manager of the company holding this until his retirement in 1918.
In 1909, with Colonel W. C. Blackett and Simon Tate, Kirkup investigated the cause of the explosion at West Stanley Colliery and acted in the same way at the Washington Colliery explosion in 1908. He held the appointment of magistrate for 30 years, 19 of which were completed as Chairman of the Petty Sessional Division of Chester-le-Street.
Kirkup joined the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers as a student in 1878, became an associate member in 1886, and became a full member in 1889. He was President from 1924-25. He was President of the North of England Branch of the National Association of Colliery Managers and sat on the Council of the Institution of Mining Engineers. He was also a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Kirkup married the daughter of John Hodgson, the manager at Edmondsley Colliery, in 1886.
Philip Kirkup died on the 10th of April 1936 at Low Fell, County Durham.