County surveyor for Co. Fermanagh, 1898-1940. James Burkitt was born on 20 August 1870, at Killybegs, Co. Donegal, third son of Thomas Henry Burkitt, Presbyterian minister, and his wife Emma Eliza, née Parsons. He was educated at Galway Grammar School, Queen's College, Galway, and the Royal University of Ireland, obtaining the degrees of BA (1891) and BE (1892) with first-class honours. He then became an assistant to JAMES PERRY in Galway, during which period he superintended the underpinning of a large bridge and the erection of a pier and swing bridge over and estuary of the sea. In May 1893 he became assistant engineer to - Fisher on the Westport & Mulranny extension of the Midland Great Western railway, and in February 1894 to the partnership of Fisher & Le Fanu in the construction of the Collooney & Claremorris railway. On the completion of the latter, he continued to work for Fisher & Le Fanu on the Belfast waterworks. In 1897 he was employed on the Downpatrick waterworks under PETER CHALMERS COWAN . He appears to have moved briefly to Co. Donegal before being appointed county surveyor for Co. Fermanagh at the end of 1898 in succession to FREDERICK RICHARD THOMAS WILLSON . He held the Co. Fermanagh surveyorship for over forty years. Responsible for extensive road improvements in the county and for the introduction of tarmacadam road surfaces in 1904, he also built several bridges during the 1920s and 1930s. He retired in April 1940.
It was a few years after he had settled in Fermanagh, when he was thirty-seven, that Burkitt started to develop an interest in birds. Through his work on the methodology of plotting bird distribution, he became one of Ireland's most influential ornithologists; he also made contributions to the understanding of threat display and territorial behaviour and song, and was the first person to use ringing returns to estimate average age.
Burkitt died on 30 March 1959 at Laragh, Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh, and was buried in Trory churchyard. He was married to Glendoline, a daughter of WILLIAM HENRY HILL  of Cork. One of his sons was the distinguished medical scientist Denis Parsons Burkitt (1911-1993).
Inst.CE: elected associate member, 1 March 1898; resigned 9 July 1915.
Incorporated Association of Municipal and County Engineers: elected member 21 April 1900; remained a member until 1939 or 1940.
Addresses: Work: Courthouse, Downpatrick, Co. Down 1897; PO, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, 1898; County Surveyor's Office, Enniskillen, 1899-1940.
Home: Lawnakilla, near Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh; Laragh, Ballinamallard at time of death.
All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from the entry on Burkitt by Helen Andrews in Dictionary of Irish Biography, ed. by James McGuire and James Quinn, 9 vols. (Cambridge University Press, 2009), II, 78-9, and from the archives of the Institution of Civil Engineers, kindly supplied by Mrs Carol Morgan. The fullest account of Burkitt's life and career as county surveyor is in Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 119-121.
IB 81, 29 Apr 1939, 351; 82, 3 Feb 1940, 79.
Davis Coakley, Irish Masters of Medicine (Dublin, 1992), 333 (B.O'.D).
Irish Times, 31 Mar 1959.