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Ramsey Town

The house of Johnny Nick the Shoemaker, in Jurby, now demolished but for long years known as Kissack's Cottage, gained its fame as the place where W. C. Gill, the folklorist, discovered and recorded the Manx folk tune 'Ramsey Town'. Ramsey was always the town of those northern Kissack homelands.

The last of the five parishes that make up the area in which the family originated lies immediately north of Ramsey. Andreas never had a Kissack presence as deep-seated as Jurby, Lezayre or Maughold, but always rather larger than Bride, though like Bride, families do not seem to settle there for long, and their use of it was as fluid as of Ramsey Town itself.

We have seen how Andreas Kissacks may have had connections with families in Ramsey, Maughold and Douglas. Parish and Land Registers reveal a 17th century presence with possible connections with Lezayre and other parishes. `Pat Quay and Ann Kissage and her sister are charged 6d rent for a parcel called Croit-y-Kissack, compounded for in 1643 by Thomas Kissage . . to pay 4d . . . The other 2d is compounded for a late enclosure of 1666 by John Kissage'.

Could this Ann be the daughter of James (AnI)? Could this Thomas be the one buried in 1655? And/or the father of James? Even the father of John? And grandfather of James?

We can however recognise the situation when we read :- '1706. Robert Kissage . . . rent 4d, compounded by Peter Clucas' and 'Joney Clucas, John Kissage for Ballamigg . . . Robert Kissage is entered as right heir'. It can be read in all its pathos (AnII). In 1704 Robert `the Miller` married at Andreas Bessie Christian of a good Bride family (AnIIa), and had a son John in 1705. His parents, John and Joney, both died in 1705, as did baby John. In December 1706 Robert himself died within a few days of the birth of a daughter Elizabeth. So Bessie in one cold January week saw both her husband buried and her child baptised.

But the genealogical interest is that it was Lezayre that was the centre of the events of Bessie's tragedy, and two of Robert's sisters, Catherine and Esther may have there made marriages with other Kissacks, Esther to a Ewan of Close-y-Killip, (not the miller), and Catherine as a second marriage in 1715 to John 'in the Curragh', (whose shoes, it may be recalled, she was willed in 1733). This John had a brother Hugh in Marown, who died in 1719 leaving two children (MrII).

Equally transient was the association with Andreas of the family of Robert and Alice (AnIII), who pass into Lezayre. There is no mention at all of our name in Andreas between 1730 and 1773, and then come the references to the MacKissacks (AnIV, AnV, AnX, AnXI). This mysterious and highly mobile family will be treated later.

But in this case, one MacKissack family (AnV) did persist, as did a family of schoolmaster and shoemaker (AnVI). Though the Parish Clerk of the day dubbed the Mac a little too lavishly (even splashing an occasional spot of it on both the schoolmaster's family and on that of John and Margaret (Quayle) (AnIX), which also persisted a further generation (AnXIII), usage speedily dispensed with the prefix. The family of John and Jane (Mylcharaine) (AnXI) emigrated to America, and that of Thomas and Margaret (Cormode) moved to Douglas. A Directory of 1894 gives no Kissack households in the parish.

Ramsey listed 8 such households in that volume but on the whole they came chiefly from Maughold, of which parish Ramsey geographically forms part. Here for instance in the 18th century we can trace Hugh the shoemaker, 1733-1818 (RyIV), and maybe his brother John (RyIII) Hugh's wife was Margaret Cammace. One of their 8 children was Hugh the schoolmaster, 1772-1867, who married Alice Sayle (AnVI). This family can be traced to today, through a younger son, John, who with his sister went to Liverpool, marrying a brother and sister named Whiteside, and being, like them, shoemakers. John`s son Robert became a shipwright and ship's carpenter, but returned to the Island to farm at Leodest, and marry Emily Crellin in 1891 (NcIII). Meanwhile his unmarried uncle Robert and aunt Catherine lived on in Close-y-Sayle, Andreas.

The marriage registers of Maughold in the second decade of the 19th century pose a genealogical crux through a super abundance of John Kissacks. One married Catherine Quayle in 1809 (MgXVIII), another Mary Curphey in 1813 (RyXI), and a third Ann Kerruish in 1815 (RyXIII). The Baptismal registers offer as candidates the sons of Hugh the Shoemaker (RyIV), 1773, of Ewan and Catherine Kerruish (MgIX), 1774 and of William and Margaret Kinnish (MgXI), 1783. The husband of Ann Kerruish died in 1827, leaving a fair amount of property in Ramsey and Bride. The situation would not be inconsistent with having either Margaret Cammace or Catherine Kerruish for his mother, but the scale of probability is tipped through the Kerruish connection.

John the son of Margaret Kinnish is found in the 1841 census living in Church St., Ramsey, married to Mary Curphey. His eldest son, John (RyXVII), was also a blacksmith, and in 1871 was Clerk to the Commissioners. His second wife kept a shop. They had a son, Henry, born in Liverpool about 1847, who at the age of 14 is a Pupil Teacher. Ten years later he was a Watch-maker. The daughter, Anne, was a dressmaker. Next door in Church St., lived the younger sister of John the Clerk, who had married Thomas Radcliffe in 1855.

Another blacksmith of the time was William, a son of Robert MacKissack (AnV). William married Jane Kerruish (RyXV). His son Thomas (born 1830) married Jane Spranger. William was still alive in 1881.

Charles Kissack, born in 1786 to Ewan Kissack and Mary Stole was a mason. He married twice, first to Jane Kermeen of a prominent Maughold family, in 1808, but the 1861 census shows he had a new wife of 30 (RyX). His younger son William was a sailor in 1841, but by 1861 he had settled as a tailor in Washington Terrace, Ramsey.

Charles` second son (also Charles) married Sussanah Young in 1831. They had two children, Jane Catherine (1832) and Charles Young Kissack (1834) (RyXVI). Mrs. Mona Lillian Kissack Maclean, of Paisley, Ontario, has lifted the curtain for us on the story of Charles Young Kissack :

'My great grandfather, Charles Young Kissack came to Canada in 1852, and purchased a concession in Bruce Township, Bruce County, for £I00. He named his farm Ballamona, and built a shanty on the east side of the creek that runs through it. He returned to the Island for his wife Elizabeth Camilla (Kermode). They sailed from Douglas Bay. Upon arrival in Canada, they took train to the end of the rail-line at Fergus. It was February They set off walking by a primitive road through the woods for Paisley, driving a cow. Elizabeth rode the cow. She was wearing hoop-skirts, which became frozen and caked with snow. Charles took her into the hotel where they thawed out her clothes before proceeding the final three miles to the farm.

That Spring they planted the first crops. Until harvest they lived mainly on cow-cabbage and edible wild-plant. Charles and Elizabeth had 10 children, 2 boys and 8 girls. In 1875 they began the construction o f the house that still stands on the farm. When it was framed a windstorm blew it down. While they were putting on the roof Charles Young fell from it and broke his hips and was unable to farm again actively, so my grandfather, Charles William, took over the farm work when he was 12 years old. Charles Young Kissack and Elizabeth died in 1923.

'Charles William, my grandfather, spent most of his life on the farm. With his son Jack (Cecil John) he had an electrical plant at Tweed, Ontario. His children were a daughter Rebecca, and two sons Charles Wesley (1906-1984) and Cecil John. Charles Wesley was my father. His other child, Charles, died in infancy. Cecil john (1910-1954) had a son Larry, but we have lost track of him. Since Charles Young`s second son John had 3 daughters (Mona, Elizabeth and Frances) but no sons, Larry will be the only one to bear the name on' (Tra10).

If there is romance and drama in that tale, there are occasional scenarios of romance even in the Census returns. For instance in 1841 Christian Kissack is a maid in a house in Dale St., Ramsey. In 1851 a widow Ann Kissack lives with her daughter Christian at No. 18. Ten years later Christian is the wife of Thomas Mulcaster Fletcher, M.R.C.S.E., whom she had married in 1857, and still lives in Dale St. She was the daughter of John Kissack and Ann Kerruish (RyXIII).

The censuses occasionally reveal the existence of families that do not appear on the parish records. One such (RyXVIII) consists of William and Jane, farming in Maughold with 4 daughters, at the Howe, in 1851. Presumably their stay on the Island was brief. For some reason in 1841 the family of John and Alice, with children William and Alice, appears both in Ramsey and in Montpelier, Michael. He can be identified as the son of John Vark (LzXXIX). Another mystery in the 1841 census surrounds the James and Robert Kissacks, aged 35 and 15, drapers, living on the east side of Church St., Ramsey. No single family accounts for them; the records can only (most improbably) suggest LzXXVII for James and MgXIX for Robert.

A family that appears prominently in the parish records for Ramsey is that of a Robert, who married Ann Jane Callow in 1866 (RyXIX). Before she died in 1881 she bore him 7 children. They lived in 36 Church St. Then in 1886 a widower of the same name married Isabella Kerruish. They had 5 children, and family addresses are Ivey Castle, Promenade and Brookfield Rd. The certification of these family events describe Robert as Baker, Mariner, Railway-crossing Keeper and Master Mariner, this last for the second marriage. Can they all be one man? It is equally difficult to determine his father who is documented as a labourer, named John. Was it James Robert, son of John and Jane (Cleator) (JuXII), or the posthumous son of John and Margaret (Quayle) (AnIX) ? Clues from America suggest the latter (Tra2).

We have noticed a decline in the Kissack presence in Jurby and Andreas, but most of all in Lezayre, over the 19th century. What of Ramsey Town? The census shows a decline in the number of household units - 9 in '41 and '51, 6 in '61, 2 in '71, 6 in '81, but 8 in the 1894 Directory. This last source shows none at all in Lezayre or Andreas, 2 in Jurby and Maughold and one in Bride, indications of a drift off the land and into the towns.

If we look at the occupation of the Kissacks in the period, we find Blacksmith, Mason, Shoemaker, Draper, Tailor, Baker, Sailor, House Carpenter, Accountant, Teacher, Dressmaker, Dairy keeper, as well as Labourers and Domestic Servants, notably the figure of Judith Kissage, female labourer, born 1781, never married and active at 75.

Having now concluded a survey of the family in the 5 northern parishes, we should look at some statistics of the relation of the Kissack population to the Island in general.

The Mormon Microfilms give the total of baptisms recorded as 189,113 of which 1,094 are Kissacks, a proportion of 1 : 172 of the total population. The four areas however vary considerably; for the North it is 1 : 81, for the West, 1 : 420, for the South, 1 : 317, and in the East 1 : 608.

The years of course have brought changes in respect both of family residence and of ratio to the general population. In 1727 the North represented 27% of the Island population, and 50% of our family population. In 1981 it held only 15% of the general population and 31% of the Kissacks, while Douglas area had 52% of the general and 48% of the Kissack population. The West and the South have always had low percentages of the family presence :- the West 3% of the 18th, 13% of the 19th, and 14% of the 20th century figures; the South, 14%, 11% and 5% respectively.

The decline in the family numbers can be seen in that whereas the 18th century registered 437 family baptisms, and the 19th 623, the Civil Registers 1880-1980 only score 399. I have drawn up a table of baptisms decade by decade and parish by parish. By setting the relevant decade totals against the population figures at census points for the Northern area, it is possible to see that between 1726 and 1784 family births rose more steeply than did the general population, kept at a steady level until 1792 after which it declined below it. The table itself shows that the peak of Kissack births was in the 1850s, when 102 baptisms were registered, the next two decades showing 97 and 71. The Registry Office figures for the decade 1880-90, and succeeding decades up to 1970 are :- 90, 75, 52, 42, 32, 29, 25, 11 and 19.

[ Table of baptisms per parish per decade ]

We shall next consider the family in the West and the South, and finally in the East.

Please note that the copyright of the 'Seed of Isaac' and 'The MacIsaacs' remains with the family of Rex Kissack and no part may be reproduced from this site without their permission.


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