Kirby, Tobias (1803/4–1895), rector of the Irish college in Rome, was born at Tallow, Co. Waterford, on 1 January 1803 (or 1804). Nothing is known of his family or his early career save that he spoke, it was said, on political platforms with Daniel O'Connell (qv). In his mid-twenties he went to Rome to study for the catholic priesthood at the seminary of Sant’ Appolinaire (1829–33). After his ordination (26 March 1833) he remained in Rome as vice-rector of the Irish college (1835–48) and then, in succession to Paul Cullen (qv), rector (1848–94). He was appointed private chamberlain to Pius IX (1860) and domestic prelate to Leo XIII (1878). The latter had been a fellow student. Kirby was made titular bishop of Lita (nominated 13 May 1881, consecrated 5 June) and later translated to the titular archbishopric of Ephesus (15 January 1886).
For many years he was the Roman correspondent of various Irish bishops and he played a major role as a conduit for the militantly ultramontane views of Cullen and as a supporter of Cullen's moulding of the Irish hierarchy into the shape it was to possess well into the second half of the twentieth century. His papers, which include a large accumulation of letters received from Ireland, are in the Irish college. He was a recluse who took no interest in life beyond ecclesiastical matters. Kirby died in Rome on 20 January 1895. In a memorial hall at the Irish college a bust of, and monument to, him were unveiled in January 1900.