South by East

But if the family presence had faded in the South-west, eastward it is more marked, due perhaps to the fact of Castletown, situated near the borders of Arbory and Malew, very much as Ramsey lies between Maughold, Lezayre and Andreas. It was the ancient seat of government, evolved out of its natural facility to protect fleets from storm and foe. At the end of the 15th century the area had a high proportion of non-Manx, mainly Lancastrian surnames, not unnaturally under the Derby dynasty. Equally its Manx families were drawn from all over the Island, playing on a more restricted scale the role that Ramsey had in the 18th and 19th, and Douglas in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1656 a John Kissack sells a croft in Lezayre, though he himself is of Castletown, and the will of Isabel Kissack in 1725 shows she had a sister Elizabeth in Castletown, married in 1691 to an Edward Killey.

Malew shares with Braddan the possession of the earliest baptismal records of our name, from the 6th decade of the 17th century, those of George, Sarah and Alice, children of the above John. Extraneous records (Manx Note Books (1886) vol. i) reveal the baptisms of a son Hugh in October 1651 to John the Fiddler, and an unnamed child in 1665, and if these refer to the same family, it points to a Lezayre origin, which the name Hugh might substantiate.

It seems best to associate the parishes of Arbory, Santon and Marown with Malew, since the relatively thin presence in the area of the family tends to move between them. Even so some of the family groups completely elude identification, even the David of MaV. Despite the rarity of the name, no David can ever be convincingly placed. And here we are faced with a plethora of Father Johns. Until about 1730, and even after not invariably, Manx parish registers tend to disregard maternal names. Malew seems particularly irritating in this respect. (Santon is much more obliging, and its clergy delighted in such titillating glosses as 'From the Sheet to the Ring', to pillory shot-gun occasions). We know the name of the wife of MaI, Alice Cowley, simply because his will shows her assenting to the disposal of his property, for a Manx wife had a legal right to half her husbands goods. Such a share required to be noted, but not her share in his child.

There were Kissacks in Santon long before the parish records open, for in 1719 Jane Kermode, alias Kissack, complains against the slander that her husband, Philip Kermode, had been hanged in Ireland, and of course the Ballakissack family had been established before the end of the 16th century. But in the 1720s in the Santon-Malew area three families were headed by a John. One (MaIII and MaIIIa) is well traced. Other records show that the wife in (SaII) was Ellinor Looney. The burial of a daughter Isabel in 1728 indicates an association with Faragher's Mill. But the mother's name is less apparent in (MaIV), The children are Hannah, 1722, Ellinor, 1725, Robert and Mary 1727. In November 1728, a John Kissack was 'found dead beneath the Great Mill near Castletown'. Then in 1734, a widow, Mary Kissack, married Arthur Bridson. When her eldest son was lost at sea in 1749; court records show that her three Kissack children were Hugh, Ellinor and Robert (all then 'off the Island'). This strongly suggests the (MaIV) family, and the probability that the dead miller was this John. There is still another tragedy in search of a John's identity. The Santon Burial register for 1729 reads : 'John Kissack who was found dead under the full sea mark at Grenick on June 6. Buried the day following'. But of him we have found no clue.

A second problem of Johns arises later in Malew. Who were the husbands of (a) Jane Corrin in 1772, (b) Elizabeth Gell in 1798 and (c) Ann Brew in 1809 - units MaVII, MaIX and MaX respectively? Before such situations genealogy becomes a kind of Computer Dating. In the absence of ancillary documents, probability rests on 'availability' factors who is the right age, who lives in the neighbourhood, 'co-evality' and 'propinquity'. A survey of all the Johns available in the indexes, born between 20 and 40 years before, with 23 in mind as the likely average age for marriage, and with regard to the same or adjacent parishes, suggests for (a) the son of John and Elizabeth Corrin, born 1750 (DmII); for (b) the son of John and Ann (Brew), born 1770, (MrV); and for (c) the son of Robert and Jane (Corrin), born 1777 (MaVIIa).

There are other families that bring links that themselves are intriguing. In the story of the Lezayre Kissacks we told the pathos of the family of Robert the Miller who was buried in January 1706, within days of his daughter`s christening, and only months after the death of his infant son. Perhaps it will be recalled that he had four sisters, one of whom, Catherine then married to a Corlett, herself later widowed had in 1716 remarried with John Kissack who lived in the Lezayre Curraghs. His will (1733) indicates a link which can be traced for three generations in the south-east. Besides bequests to his wife and executor (including his shoes), he left 40/jointly to his sister Joney and the children of his brother Hugh, which was to be paid them after the death of his wife (which did not occur for another 20 years).

Hugh himself had died in 1719 in Marown, only six years after he had married Ann Bittel in Malew, leaving two small children, Thomas, born 1715 and Ellen, 1718 (MrII). He left 6d each to his father, his brother John and his sister Joney. Among his debts which came to £5.2.11 were items of 7 / 8 for Croft rent, and 12/10 for mill rent, which suggests strongly that he too was a miller. His friends did their best to help the poverty that faced his widow. They managed to set a debt of 6/- due from his sister against his 6d legacy, and 'an old razor in his brother's hand', and 'a leather belt in his father's hand', at a shilling each against their account. Since wives legally possessed half of the matrimonial estate, Ann was left with half the debt to pay. Little wonder then that in May 1722 she is petitioning the Court. Left with two small children, the elder being a cripple, ('the older he grows the more feeble he is') and 'she has nothing to subsist by but her daily labour'. She was awarded 5/-.

One would hardly then have expected young Thomas to have survived till 1733 to feature in his uncle's will, even less to inherit his few shillings after his aunt Catherine died in 1750. But he did, and sired Ewan, John and Ellinor by Ellinor Kneale, and Ann, Bessie and Thomas by Jane Cain, before dying in 1765 (MrIII). In 1766, the second wife brought a case against Hugh Kissack of Kirk German, John of Marown, and Ellinor of Malew, for them to pay their share in the maintenance of 'the orphan child of their father, Thomas Kissack'. Seemingly Ann and Bessie had not survived. They were ordered to contribute 9/- quarterly between them. But in 1770 Jane was asking them again for a year and a half's default - 7/8 due from John 5/2 from Hugh, and 9/- from Ellinor'. Possibly this little Thomas, the cause of the family dispute, was later to be the Thomas who served in the Fencibles.

There was a strange slander case in Malew under the date April 1742. Capt. Thomas Bridson was condemned for making allegations concerning the wife of Kissag, a servant of William Taggart. The Captain had spread the rumour that she was of child by Taggart, who had bought a horse and bag for Kissag and sent him begging to maintain the child. The Captain was forced to withdraw his slander. The occasion would hardly anticipate the impending birth of John in 1743, but more likely refer in retrospect to Ewan`s in 1740. Is history to say No smoke without fire? At any rate, history as such has all too many faceless personalities, and too few vignettes of a pedlar with horse and bag, making his living in the lanes of the island; all in keeping with one who had been crippled from birth.

Hugh (or Ewan) had a tombstone in Marown, saying he died 15 April 1789, aged 48. He left two daughters (MrIV). His brother John married Ann Brew (MrV).

Another vignette of another Thomas in the same year comes from the case book too. This Thomas was 'a poor labourer from Douglas'. His wife complains that an Ann Callow had left her child with her, purporting to be paying a visit to Ramsey. But she had slipped off the Island altogether. Left holding the baby, indeed. The Callow family were obliged to accept their responsibilities. The transcript of the case uses the interesting word 'transmarian' to denote Manx citizens abroad. It is no doubt significant that these years were the occasion of famine and pestilence following the failed harvests. Thomas is to be identified with the bridegroom of Elizabeth Taylor (or Christian) at Braddan in 1737. It was also in 1742 that a stone in Malew simply records that in that one year five children of John and Jane Kissack all died under two years old. It seems a hard fact of life, in more senses than one. Records show no such couple marrying, baptising or burying any children in the Island in that decade, but it is true to the tragedy of those years.

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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