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Gilbert MacKissack and his ilk

Towards the end of the 18th century we find the family of Ross MacKissack and Catherine Stowell in Malew (MaVIII). This then seems the place to speak of the MacKissacks. Is their name a mere linguistic anomaly, an antiquarian throw-back to an earlier form, a creation of eccentric clergy or parish clerks? Or is it a new sept altogether appearing about 1760? And what are we to make of its diffusion over the island? The metaphor of cuckoo suggests itself, for MacKissack eggs seem laid in far-scattered baptismal nests. But what are the facts?

There are 58 entries in all of the name, and they are spread over the 8 parishes of Andreas, Ballaugh, Braddan, Bride, Malew, Michael, Patrick and Santon, but chiefly in Andreas and Malew. There are records of six marriages under the name :

Ross with Catherine Stowell at Malew in 1783;
Quayle with Joney Christian at Andreas in 1793;
William with Isabella Corlett at Michael in 1798;
Thomas with Mary Kennaugh at Braddan in 1825;
John with Margaret Sayle at Malew in 1861.

There are also five families whose marriages are not recorded, but baptisms of children to them are :

Gilbert and Ann Quayle, beginning at Patrick in 1760;
Robert and Ann Corlett, in Santon and Andreas, from 1796;
John and Catherine, in 1850 at Patrick;
Also, Jane, daughter of Ann, in 1816 at Andreas.
Marriages of daughters of the family are recorded):
Jane to Matthew Kinread, 1776, at Bride;
Ann to William Kaneen, 1816, at Malew;
Mary to William Sayle, 1838 at Malew, (Widow of Thomas);
Christian to John Birrell, 1839, at Braddan;
Mary Ann to John Cowin, 1846, at Malew.

Robert and Ann (AnV) had 9 children baptised between 1796 and 1817, the two eldest at Santon, the rest in Andreas. Quayle and Joney had 8 in Andreas (AnIV). In Malew Ross and Catherine (MaVIII) had 8 baptised (one in Douglas) between 1785 and 1805. In Malew also, John and Margaret (MaXIII) had 7 children between 1862 and 1870. William and Isabella, though married in Michael, had 4 children baptised in Douglas (DmIX). Thomas and Mary had 3 children (BaXV).

Yet there was never great consistency shown in the use of a name. Even Gilbert, who originated it, is referred to without the prefix in some parishes, and also in the records of a Lezayre farm sale in 1770. It is also used in entries of families which have no calculable relationship with Gilbert - notably in 3 instances; 2 in Andreas, first in 1801 in respect of a daughter of Hugh the schoolmaster, the second in respect of children of John Kissack and Mary Quayle (AnIX). But the most inexplicable of all is in Ballaugh. The only baptismal entry of the whole family in the 18th century took place on January 19th 1762, in circumstances most unusually described. Because of the floods of the Sulby river, which cut them off from their own parish church of Lezayre, they baptised Philip, son of Michael MacKissack and Catherine Kewley. The matter is more curious, since the then rector of Ballaugh, Matthias Curghey, had himself been vicar of Lezayre since 1729 up to the previous February, and must have had intimate knowledge of Michael's family, and had never in all his registers there (which, admittedly, he had not kept over well) had he given the Mac to the family. There is a further ins tance in Patrick (in 1850); here the couple seem to be identifiable with John and Catherine (PaII).

For the most part the Mac form fades out completely. It does not appear in the north after 1830, but one family proudly sustained it in the south. Not that of the original Ross and Catherine, though these lived on in Castletown and died there in 1842 and 1837 respectively, but descendents of Thomas, whom I take to be the son of Quayle MacKissack, born in 1800 (AnIV), though he could be the son of Robert, his brother born 1803 (AnV). He married Mary Kennaugh in 1825, but died in 1834 (BaXV). We can trace the history of Mary and her two sons, Thomas and John, in the 19th century censuses.

In 1838 Mary remarried to William Sayle, and in 1841 lives at Ballahot, Malew. She works as a charwoman. Ten years later she is there with John, aged 22, a miner. Thomas is again in the household in 1861. He never married and worked as a shoemaker. John however has left the mines, and is Clerk to the Lime-kilns. There his address is Peel Rd. In 1871 he is married and lives at 5, Malew Road, with his wife Margaret and 7 children ranging from 8 years to 4 months. His brother Thomas the shoemaker is at Ballahot. In 1881 their address is Limekiln Corner House, and his daughter Margaret is under-housemaid at King Williams' College.

Thomas died in 1888, and John`s wife, Margaret, in 1911. Their eldest son, John Ross, a Railway clerk, married Elizabeth Jane Skelly in 1891, but tragically died of pneumonia at 30, leaving three small children, Margaret Jane, John Ross and Thomas Elgie (MaXIV). John Ross II (1894-1917) won the Military Medal, but lost his life in World War I. Margaret Jane married John Booth and died in 1963. Thomas Elgie emigrated to the U.S.A., and his grandchildren can be found in Parma, Ohio.

Though other families descended from Gilbert have dropped the prefix, several of the line can be traced to today, but I can only be sure of one single line, which runs :- GrI, AnIV, AnX, BaXXI, BaXXIX, and BaXXXII in Britain; but William Quayle Kissack (AnXI) has carried the line into America. There may be other descendents in the female side, through William the blacksmith of Ramsey (RyXV), and through James (BiI). The family of Gilbert's second son, William and Isabel Corlett (DmIX) was most tragic. The youngest son died a year old in 1809, the same year in which his father serving as pilot on board the American vessel Minerva was lost when she dragged her anchors and was wrecked on the Pollack rocks on December 14. Both sons William and James died at the age of 23, James (by drowning) in 1823, his brother in 1826. There may have been another son, John, born in 1798, and a daughter, Christian, who married John Birrel in 1839.

There is however an earlier appearance of the name, not in Manx parochial registers, but in records of land transactions in which the Kerrowmoar family were engaged, towards the end of the 17th century. A John MacKissack of Mutehill in Kirkcudbright, executed deeds in 1693 which imply that he bought Kerrowmoar lands from Ewan Kissage, and then leased them to Hugh, whom he describes as 'his loving friend and kinsman'. and states that the purpose of the transaction is for 'the said Hugh to keep up the name of Kissage in the said Kerrowmoar'. In another place, allusion is made to the motive behind the dealings - 'to the end that the said ancient estate may be brought again into one entire holding and possessed in the ancient name of the Kissages as formerly it hath'.

We can gauge the private motives of John MacKissack, and the insecure state of Scotland, when he writes into the contract the clause : 'always providing that if he, the said John MacKissack or his heirs be compelled or constrained to flee for refuge to this Island, he is to enter and receive one half of the said lands of Kerrowmoar paying one half of the moiety'. However he never took any sort of possession, and other names are finally entered for the parcel of land involved.

But the personality of John MacKissack is an intriguing one, as is the flourish with which he signs his name in contrast with the crosses made by the Manxmen. Mrs. May Cannell, of the sixth generation from Gilbert, has investigated John in the Dumfries Record Office.

She has found a series of references to him between 1675 and 1698, in documents in which he sometimes features as a witness to signatures, in one case in the purchase of a boat, the Mary of Carlingford, but on occasion he lends money or buys property on his own account. In 1685 he is 'Servitor' to a Thomas Lidderdale, who among other things collected taxes for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. In 1694 allusion is made to an Edward the 'fourth lawful son of John MacKissack'. A William Kissock and a John Kissock, merchants of Cumnock, are also mentioned in the papers, and another Manx name, Alexander Cannon, also occurs.

To have a fourth son of age to be in business in 1694, a father must have been married quite 25 years, and so be himself 45-50 years old at the time. We may hazard then that John's life-span would be approximately 1645-1715, quite two generations before Gilbert.

Of the 345 occurrences in the Scots microfiche indexes, of the names of Kissock or MacKissack (the earliest being in 1702) - 31, it may be recalled, are connected with Kirkcudbright. And there is an interesting vagary in them. There is only one MacKissack entry - the baptism in 1773 of James, son of Samuel MacKissack and Margaret Brown. But another entry is of the baptism in 1761 of an unnamed child of Samuel Kissock and Margaret Brown, a fact which strongly suggests that the Scots too were inclined to sit as lightly to the use of the Mac as were the Manx.

Interesting too, to note that one of John's colleagues in those transactions was a John Mulligan, tailor burgess of Kirkcudbright. There is a family in the records, of three sons and three daughters, born to a John Kissock and Janet Mulligan, who must have been married about 1753. Here is indication of another generation of the family, a Samuel and a John born about 1720-1730, conceivably sons of Edward MacKissack or his brothers Gilbert must have been of this generation. We have no record of either his birth or marriage on the Island, even though his wife Ann Quayle sounds Manx. Is the Mulligan connection an indication of John MacKissack's family two generations on? And could Gilbert's advent be due to an atavistic instinct that when a MacKissack is compelled or constrained to flee from Scotland, he makes for the Isle of Man, even if his hypothetical forefathers did not possess lands in handy Lezayre?

On this head there is a curious piece of family tradition in the Ballakissack family. Essie Kissack (MiIII) told Tom Cashin that the Santon Kissacks believed they originated from Scots Covenanters. This could not be true of her own line of Ballakissack who had entered the holding in the l6th century. But it could make sense for the Ballavale family, if the husband of Ann Juke (SaXII) was indeed the William MacKissack, born in 1795 (MaVIII). Though the connection between the two families eludes me, William Cubbon (in his letter to Jimmie Kissack of 1954) implies his own belief that the two were related, and this might be the basis of the legend.

But the presence of other Manx names besides Kissock in Galloway indicates the existence of quite a colony of northern Manxmen across the 20-odd miles of water. There is even a Balkissock in Ayrshire. The Mary of Carlingford was both a symbol of a relationship with the Island and a means of exploiting it.

Within this context, what weight is to be put on John MacKissack's talk of 'beloved friend and kinsman'? Does it mean a genuine family connection between himself and the Lezayre Kissacks, and that they were well aware of it? Or was the phrase a mere cliche' by which a stronger Scots clan generally recognised a relationship with a smaller one, assuming blood ties without being necessary able to establish them? If there were indeed some known kinship between Kerrowmoar and Mutehill, a glimmer of light is thrown on the mysterious behaviour of Matthias Curghey in 1762, when he gave a Close-y-Killip Kissack the accolade of the Mac. Perhaps he knew more about the family after all, and indulged an antiquarian pendantry aroused by the recent appearance of Gilbert in the area.

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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