Quirk was the son of Charles Thomas Quirk, sometime rector of Golborne. After being educated at Shrewsbury School and St John's College, Cambridge, he was ordained deacon in 1874 and priest in the following year.
His first post was as a curate at St Leonard's, Bridgnorth, where he served for four years, after which he was at Doncaster. He was Vicar of St Thomas's, Douglas, for a year, then successively Vicar of Rotherham, of St Mary′s, Beverley and of St Paul′s, Lorrimore Square, before being appointed Canon of York in 1888. He was appointed Rector and Rural Dean of Bath in 1895, where he was heavily involved with the restoration of Bath Abbey. Quirk had recently been nominated Vicar Designate of Doncaster, when in September 1901 he became the first and (as it turned out) only Bishop of Sheffield to be a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of York. He was consecrated as a bishop in York Minster on 18 October 1901. In May 1902 he received the degree Doctor of Divinity (DD) from the University of Cambridge.
When Sheffield was selected to form the centre of a new diocese in 1914, Quirk was translated to be the second Bishop of Jarrow (a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Durham). He also served as Archdeacon of Durham from 1922 to 1924.
He died on 26 April 1924. He had become a Doctor of Divinity (DD).
Quirk was married, on 22 April 1880 at Brathay Church, Ambleside, to Mary Jane Clay (b. 17 August 1856 at Stapenhill, Burton-on-Trent; d. 21 August 1934 at Ulverstoke). She was the daughter of John Clay(1805–1877), a priest, of Burton-on-Trent, and his wife, Jessie Harden (1814–1908) of Ambleside. They had two sons and a daughter:
- Robert Quirk (1883–1949), m. Stella Sedgewick in 1908 and had children Roger, Diana and Catharine.
- Douglas Quirk (1887–1939), m. Inna Obolianoff in 1923, no children.
- Margery Quirk (1886–1911) d.unm.
- “Who was Who” 1897–1990 London, A & C Black, 1991 ISBN 0-7136-3457-X
- "Quirk, John Nathaniel (QRK869JN)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Information about the church
- "Ecclesiastical intelligence - the new Bishops". The Times (36539). London. 21 August 1901. p. 8.
- "No. 27353". The London Gazette. 10 September 1901. p. 5979.
- The Times, Wednesday, 11 September 1901; p. 8; Issue 36557; col E Ecclesiastical Intelligence Inaugural Bishop of Sheffield
- "Ecclesiastical intelligence - Consecration of Bishops". The Times (36590). London. 19 October 1901. p. 11.
- "University intelligence". The Times (36775). London. 23 May 1902. p. 4.
- History of Diocese
- The Times, Saturday, 2 May 1914; p. 10; Issue 40513; col E New Bishop Of Jarrow
- "No. 27437". The London Gazette. 27 May 1902. p. 3463.
- The Times, Monday, 27 August 1934; p. 1; Issue 46843; col A Deaths Mary Jane Quirk
- http://www.spanglefish.com/gerardclay/documents/Documents/CLAY%20BOOK%20Part%201.DOC p. 31
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| Bishop of Jarrow