Kissack Quarterlands

Any study of the Kissacks must begin in Lezayre. That doyen of Manx scholarship, W. Cubbon, wrote in 1954 to Jimmie Kissack of Cleveland, who preceded me in this search :- 'Our mutual friend, David Craine tells me he has been a-chasin' Kissages all over the north, and he feels that he's got ye! - at last My own feelin' is that you are a Kirk Christ Lezayre family, near the Kerrowmoar, near Sulby Glen'. And it is in that parish that they are to be found in greatest profusion when parish records begin in 1696. But all efforts to trace the senior family, who held the quarterland of Kerrowmoar before the marriage of Ewan (LzV) to Catherine Christian in 1700 can only rely on the incoherent information from wills, land-changes or law-suits. Yet these show conclusively that Ewan`s father was William, and his grand-father Edward. An Edward inherited from another William in 1654, whose will sounds as if he were the last of the family to enjoy any special political importance. He had, for instance, a daughter Christian who had married into the 'Mr and Mrs' class, first to a Radcliffe of Knockaloe, and then to a Quail of Ballaquayle, an area on which most of Douglas now stands.

This William is most likely the one who features in an incident of 1639, when the body of William Mac-a-Fayle was discovered in suspicious circumstances, and tells how the murderers, two Casement brothers, were detected through a combination of parish gossip and the psychological trauma of making them lie down beside the corpse, in the expectancy that it would bleed freely were they guilty. The case was conducted by William Kissag as Coroner of the Ayre Sheading, an office normally held in turn by the occupants of the chief quarterlans. (Such records of the 24 Keys as survive show a Kissack as among them in 1585, 1612 and 1634. Since when none of the ilk has ever graced the Keys again).

Family History has been likened to the game of Snakes and Ladders, ladders the luck of good marriages to heiresses or good business deals, snakes to bankruptcies and lack of heirs. In this way the story of the Kerrowmoar Kissacks from the mid-l7th century is a snake. Economic circumstances were increasingly difficult. William and Ewan constantly cry poverty when in arrears with the Lord`s Rent. The Ewan who came into his inheritance about 1690 gives every sign of instability both of judgment and character. Not only do his land transactions show evidence of imprudence and impulse, so as to be progressively more disastrous, but also he could be equally high-handed with any power he had. In 1706 he was appointed to the public office of Sumner of Lezayre. However we can read his character in the Presentments. Once he absented himself from the Sheading Court when complained of by John Crow for calling him the son of a bitch, and that cost him 3 days in St. German`s. A year later he was sent again there for 'being drunk and cursing'; and the same year we read : 'Ewan Kissage, on the complaint of the Vicar, that he had charged the Jury of Servants to meet on the day set for the Court, to avoid, as is supposed, his own appearance. Moreover he has charged William Kissage, one of the Quest to be on the above Jury'. He had his private troubles in plenty. In 1714 he lost three of his children, which in addition to two who had died earlier, reduced his family to a single son, Ewan.

In 1721 his trouble was again public. He and his neighbours, Dan and Mary Cry, were at least united in being notoriously absentees from church. But that did not keep them from public altercation nor from their dragging his domestic quarrels into public, and he had to answer in Court for cursing his wife. "A rash word", was his defence, "not a curse!"

Isabel Kissag - I believe an elder sister of Ewan - at least he was held responsible for her - could outswear them all. And one day the curses began to fly between Crys and Kissacks. The Crys called her a blind whore, and she finished up in the Mill-stream. But the matter only ended before the Vicar General, who must tell it in his own words :

"It being proved by Mary Cry and Ewan Kissack that Isabel Kissack reflected on Alice Kissack in a very base and bawdy manner . . , and Mary Cry having deposed that she cursed the said Alice Kissack, saying Skeablome to her doors, with other base and wicked expressions, not seemly to be named amongst Christians, many o f which have this day been uttered within my own presence, to such a degree as to require the most rigorous punishment the Law affords; the said Isabel Kissack is therefore to be 7 days confined in St. German`s, and before releasement to give bonds of ?3 with security to perform 3 Sundays penance, vizt., the first in Lezayre, the 2nd in Kirk Andrews, and the last in the parish church again; at all which times she is to ask solemn forgiveness on her knees for the offence given and to pay all fees. Dat ut supra.

Wm Walker, Vicar Genl.

Two other pieces of paper are attached :

"August 20 1721
"Isabel Kissage did this day con form herself to the Order by performing her first Sunday`s penance, expressing sorrow, and asking forgiveness for her offences, and therefore is recommended for a Mitigation of her Censure by Hen. Allen, Vicar of Lezayre".

Wm Walker replies :

"The further Censure agt Isabel Kissack is, for the trial of her behaviour, suspended for 2 months time from the date hereof".

The other scrap dated Oct 27 reads :

"Since the within Isabel Kissag`s behaviour has been tolerably good, she is therefore recommended to the favour of the Rev. Court by Henry Allen". And underneath : "Eodem die. The further censure is remitted".

In 1725 Ewan again stood before the Court :- "Ewan Kissage Lockman, for being a common curser and swearer. He humbly asks forgiveness; therefore the Vicar to forgive him. Performed".

In 1733 his son married, and the contract gave him half the ownership of the land and all the responsibility (LzX). So the tense and battered Ewan was able to relax and keep out of the courts. The single son of Ewan II, John married Christian Kissack the youngest daughter of Ewan the Miller (LzXXIV). Their single son, also John, took a bride Ann Fargher from Lonan in 1807, but they had no children at all, and the line ended with their deaths, his in 1861, hers in 1866.

The failure of this, the senior branch of the family, can be attributed in no small degree to the failure to produce enough male offspring. After the death of Edward (Plz9) in 1671 there followed three generations with only single sons, and the fourth produced no issue at all. The lack of sons must have affected the efficient cultivation of the land, and this is reflected in the financial crises which became so acute in the last quarter of the 17th century. Economic insecurity shows itself reflected in behaviour. Drunkenness, quarrels with neighbours, open ruptures between husband and wife, absence from worship, suspicions, if not actual acts, of immorality. And so the woes of Ewan I were compounded, and failure escalated.

Ewan II does not feature in the Presentments, and John I's misdemeanours seem limited to being persuaded by madcap Standish Christian to ride their horses to the sea at Ramsey in church hours one hot day in 1753 His son John II, last of the line, gives the impression that he had steadied the fortunes somewhat. He provided the land for a Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1825 and was a Class Leader there.

The quarterland of Kerrowmoar slopes from the curragh level upwards into the hills that rise in a steepish escarpment which once must have been the coastline, they then ease into the upland valley, named Narradale, or the Eary, and beyond the terrain reaches upward to the rough moors, that go on to climb to the summit of Snaefell. The quarterland of Ballakissack in Santon is by contrast, smooth meadow and gentle wold. And, as if by analogy, the story of the other landed branch is a much smoother and more gentlemanly matter.

Yet Santon is no farmer's paradise. Proverbially it is the parish of Stones and Poverty. Granite boulders lie in the soil, and are dug out to make hedges and walls of buildings. Harder living, then, and harder working than in the better tilth of Kerrowmoar may have bred better sons for Ballakissack. They have found medieval silver groats in the Ballakissack street , and the place has been the home of farmers from Manx times immemorial.

The Kissacks came there through a fortunate marriage, I suspect, which brought William Kissag, a member of the Ballaugh family, into the treen of Bendoill in Santon in 1598. There were never very many Kissacks in Santon - only 87 recorded baptisms in 200 years, as against 159 in Lezayre. Yet these births are evenly spaced. In each of those 20 decades, bar one, there has been at least one baptism. The average is four, and there are only three or four families to divide them among. By the mid-17th century they were calling their farm Ballakissage.

By the mid-18th they had made marriage connections with the established and respected families of the South-east - Moores, Brews, Clucases and Kellys (SaVII). In 1772, John Kissack who had married a daughter of Captain John Clucas, found himself aligned with one brother-in-law against another, in a dispute over responsibility for the Captain`s widow and her debts and it cost him £65. No poverty there.

Equally they steered well clear of the Spiritual Courts, although in 1757 John Kissack got involved in what seems a Marriage Guidance case. and was charged to 'behave as a husband to his wife, and to his father-in-law', (who was John Moor). In comparison with the matrimonial problems of the Lezayre Kissacks, this was nothing. In August 1667 a Lezayre William was imprisoned in Castle Rushen for some crime, when he was also sentenced to St. German's 'till he agree to undergo the censure of the Church for his abuse of Mary Corlett his wife, to be obedient unto his father as becometh a child and to respect, love and use his wife as a husband ought to do.' Indeed the Santon family provided church-wardens , even if in the mid-19th century Edward Kissack (SaXIII) got written into the parish registers for locking the communion-wine away from the Vicar, and sundry other derelictions of duty. Though there are no registers for the 17th century we know that besides a succession of Williams, there were also sons of the names of John, Gilbert and Thomas, for when in 1731 trouble arose over the demarcation of burial spaces - for holders of quarterlands had the right of burial below their pews - one Christian Brew aged 80 testified 'Ballakissage families buried eastward of Rogane and adjoining' for she had seen those three worthies laid away. By the mid-l8th century the family were also farming Ballachrink, and that tyrannical warden, Edward, went on to farm lands also at Port-y-chee, Braddan, till his operations covered some 250 acres.

Other Kissack families lived in Santon. An early l8th century one lived at Faragher`s Mill, near Ballakissack (SaII). Would John its head , have been a miller? Another was in the south-east of the parish in Meary Vooar (SaIII). Early in the l9th century, another branch is found at Ballavale; possibly as a result of an 1821 marriage of a William to Ann Juke, of another established family in that part of the Island (SaXII). This William was born in 1795, and so may have been one of the MacKissacks (MaVIII), or a son of John Kissack and Jane Corrin (MaVII).

Another family established itself in Santon, when Thomas, Isaac Kissack`s second son, moved there with his first wife, Margaret Cowle about 1820 (SaXI). He was a labourer and was living at Port Grenough at the time of his death in 1892, aged 95. James, one of his two surviving sons is to be recognised in Tromode in 1871 as an Engine Driver (BaXIX).

The Ballavale family saw the ancient Ballakissack family pass out of the parish, and in 1881 were farming Ballachrink themselves. Edward Kissack had had five sons, but three had died before him in 1877 (SaXIII). Of the rest, John Bridson had been farming in Braddan in the '60s, but seems to have left the Island, while Christopher (SaXII) then living as a boarder in Queen St., Douglas, described himself to the 1881 Census as 'retired former'. Of the five sons of John and Elizabeth (SaXIV) the third died in 1871, the same year as his father, also in Douglas, whither the family had already retired. The other two, Allan Jocelyn (MiII) and Alfred (WeIII) moved to Ballafageen, Michael. And so Ballakissack hardly survived Kerromoar by more than a decade after all.

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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