The Kermode Family of Ramsey

[From Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 5]



TRADITION in the Kermode family places its early home in the parish of Kirk Marown. In 1643 John Kermode held Ballawooilley in the Treen of Ballanicholas. Ballawooilley has now become known as Ballamona. In 1703 another John held Ballachrink quarterland. Both farms are close to the borders of Kirk Malew, on the upper reaches of the Silverburn. Philip Kermode was of the opinion his branch of the family came from Grenaby and Tottaby in Malew.

Parson William Kermode’s father was Thomas, who, ‘ Cushag ‘ has told me, belonged to Kirk Marown. He was, in 1821, sworn in as a Special Constable for Ramsey. His baton was put in the Manx Museum by Philip.

Thomas married Margaret Callow, daughter of William Callow, member of the House of Keys, and a Miss Cowle, of Aust, Lezayre. This Miss Cowle, with her sister Ann, inherited Ballacowle, Bride,an estate which was in the hands of their ancestor Donald McCowle in 1515. She also owned Claghbane, near Ramsey, which became Kermode property.

Thomas Kermode and Margaret Callow had three sons and three daughters.
The first son was Thomas, of Sea View Villa, Kirk Bride. According to Canon Harrison he died about 1900. The second was Parson William Kermode (born 1814, died 1890); and the third was James.

The estate of Claghbane, near Ramsey, came to Parson William by will from his mother Margaret Cowle. She inherited it from her grandfather William Callow, a member of the House of Keys. He came of a family famous in Manx national affairs.

Parson William Kermode

The only portrait we have of Parson William Kermode was taken in his later years. He has a strong face like that of an old chieftain. Rather stern, maybe; but from what we know of him, he was kindly, generous and public-spirited, and truly Christian.
From his earliest years he was a keen student. That is seen from his career at King William’s College, where he spent three years (1833-1836). He secured the Lord Bishop’s prize for a Theological essay two years in succession, and the Governor’s prize for an English Poem twice. He spent a year at Trinity College, Dublin, and in 1839 entered the Manx Church.

His Diary

He commenced to keep a Diary at this point, having attained the age of 25. He continued to write it for five years until the death of his first wife which occurred on the 14th February, 1844.

It is the Diary of a young man fervent in the religious mission he had undertaken. He was evidently self-critical and introspective; but was certainly methodical, exact and faithful to his flock but somewhat intolerant.
He was a hard worker, and often took himself to task for what he called his ‘ lukewarmness and levity.’

When in the course of his parochial visits he came across old people who knew little or no English, he felt remorse that he was unable to comfort them in their own tongue.

He was on good terms with the clergy with whom he associated, and speaks admirably of Parsons John Qualtrough, John Lamothe Stowell, William Gill and Thomas Stephen (Vicar of Patrick, in whose house he found a second home). He tells in one entry, of his early morning experiences at Kirk Patrick Vicarage. He was fond of putting his head under the pump in the yard while the Vicar worked the handle; and he in his turn returned the compliment by sousing the Vicar’s head in the same way.

He often pleads guilty of lying abed in the early mornings. On 12th February, 1841, he writes: ‘ Late in rising. Can I ever break myself of my besetting sin ? Often and often have I resolved to amend, and still I go on day after day in this sinful indulgence.’ As a matter of fact he frequently records his rising at six o’clock.

Also 1st November, 1839: ‘ I had made a resolution not to go out to parties, but I was unfortunately led to break it; and worse still a few evenings ago was induced to take a hand at cards. (May God pardon me! I am set here as an example, and shall I descend from the height I ought to occupy to mingle with the gay and idle frivolities of the world!) _for which this morning I received a reprimand, a kind rebuke, from some anonymous friend.’

There are evidences in his Diary that he was an old-fashioned Tory. On 26th January he wrote to his elder brother Thomas, giving him’ some serious admonitions on the tendency of Radicalism, as I fear his views are in that way from the fact that he is always sending me a Radical newspaper . . . against which I strongly protested.’
The Diary was not intended to be read by any outsider; and it would not be proper to quote freely from it.

At the end of the Diary is a very charming pen and ink drawing of St. Maughold’s Church and the old Standing Cross in the foreground. It shows that the Parson had more than ordinary artistic skill. It has the caption at foot: ‘ St. Maughold’s Church, with the Old Cross, as it now stands: a little memento for dear Willie, should the Almighty spare him. Feb. 26, 1844.’

Parson Kermode was, in his day, probably the most distinguished clergyman in the Diocese, in which he served 51 years. Born in 1814 he died in 1890, aged 76. He was an unusual sort of parson, many sided, with a distinctly Manx point of view. His first appointment was curate of Dalby. In 1845 he was curate of Lezayre under the Rev. Henry Maddrell, then a very old man.

For 28 years he was Chaplain of Ramsey. For six years he was Vicar of Kirk Maughold, and for thirteen years Rector of Ballaugh.

The first official Commission on our Ancient Monuments was set up in 1876. Parson Kermode was one of the members who signed the First Report in 1878. He was also a member of the Committee of the old Manx Society in 1858, the date of its foundation.

On the formation of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society by his son Philip in 1879, Parson Kermode and his wife, his eldest daughter Minnie and her husband the Rev. S. N. Harrison became members. He contributed a few papers, and was, in 1884, elected President.

When he was Rector of Ballaugh he compiled a Parish Record under the title of Parochialia St. Maria? de Ballaugh. It is illustrated by maps and plans, and is said to be a model of what a parish history should be.2

But possibly the greatest thing that Parson Kermode achieved was to bring up, in almost a patriarchal manner, a large family — all devoted to him — into every member of which he instilled a love of learning, a love of country, and a love of service.

Parson Kermode was a man of great enterprise. When he was appointed Rector of Ballaugh in 1877 he and his family went to live at the old Rectory. It had been built by Vicar-General Walker about 1710. But Rector Kermode had a big household and there was little room. He immediately set to work and built a new and commodious Rectory nearer the village.

In his development schemes he was himself very generous. He was personally responsible for the restoration of Ballaugh Old Church. When he was Chaplain of Ramsey long before, he built St. Paul’s Parsonage. In addition to paying one-third of the cost he gave the site, which was part of his Claghbane estate. And when he was President of the Antiquarian Society he restored and re-opened the ancient Chapel of Ballure.

His Children

Parson Kermode had three wives within a space of twenty-one years. There were all together fourteen children.

The first wife was Marian Griffiths, whom he met at BallaCosnahan during his curacy at Kirk Patrick. She died four years after their marriage, leaving a boy William John. He was very delicate and died at the Parsonage, Ramsey, at the age of 23.

Parson Kermode’s second wife was Jane Bishop, daughter of W. Bishop, of Shelton Hall, Staffordshire. There were nine children of this marriage. Two died young.

All of the remaining seven excelled in scholarship. Two of them—Philip and Josephine (‘ Cushag’) — became Manx national figures. Another, Charles, of whom we have hitherto known hardly anything -—was an artist of great merit.

Fred: ‘ Silver Birch ‘

Another boy in this family group had high marks of distinction. He was Frederick Bishop, six years older than Philip. His career at King William’s College was very promising. He excelled in Greek and Latin, in Mathematics, and in Poetry. He was at the College five years and got a scholarship to Cambridge in 1868. He secured the Goldsmith Exhibition at Cambridge in 1871.

Our knowledge of him comes chiefly from his poems, a few of which have been printed from time to time in the Press and in the Manx Society’s magazine Mannin,3 written above the pen-name ‘ Silver Birch.’ From his sister Miss Cherrill I have received a number of poems in MS., covering over 100 folios, all of them as yet unpublished.

Miss Cherrill tells me that Fred was also very musical and composed anthems.
Fred became a headmaster in schools at Eastbourne and Brighton, where it appears he spent most of his time. [FPC found adverts in Streatham SW London local paper for Anerley High School Oakfield, Streatham headmaster F.B. Kermode for period 1891-2]

Fred’s son Derwent is highly placed in the diplomatic sphere. He was engaged at the Embassy in Japan for twenty years, and is now at the Foreign Office.

Philip, the Founder of our Society

Philip was six years younger than Fred. In his early twenties, he, like almost every other member of the Kermode family, expressed himself in verse. We who knew Philip intimately in his Museum days can hardly conceive such a possibility.

Two volumes of verse in MS. were written by him, I think between 1876 and 1890, from the time that he was 21 years of age.

Some of these poems were submitted to the Rev. T. E. Brown when he was at Clifton. A letter from Brown, which I think very few people have seen, dated 2nd May, 1887, says: ‘ I have now read your poems, and many of them with great pleasure.’ After mentioning those he enjoyed best, he continues: ‘ In nearly all these poems, there is true poetic feeling, as well as very considerable power of expression.’ That is good praise from such a master.

It is well known, of course, that Philip was an unusually clever artist. These are numerous examples in the publications of the Museum and of our Society. But few have had the opportunity of admiring the delicately-drawn miniature sketches that embellish a printed copy of Tennyson’s ‘ In Memoriam.’

They were done soon after 1876, when his bosom friend and companion, Alfred Rudd, was killed by accidentally falling over a cliff at Skinscoe. Both boys were bird-nesting at the time. Philip was then 21.

The accompanying portrait was taken, when he was 31, by Mr. Patterson, of Ramsey, a few years after he had started on his life’s study of the Manx Crosses. In November, 1886, he discovered in Kirk Andreas Churchyard a broken slab carved with Runes. He brought it home, and he is here shown in the act of examining it.
It proved to be a fragment of a very celebrated cross-slab -the only one in the Island which has what are called Bind-Runes. Not even the most competent scholar has been able to read them.

Further particulars of Philip will be found in The Journal of the Manx Museum, Vol. II, pp. 79-84.

When Parson Kermode died in 1890, Philip, who was then 35,made a beautiful original design, based upon the ornamentation on our Celtic crosses, for a memorial at Kirk Maughold. Mr. T. H.Royston was for several years engaged upon the carving. It was still unfinished when the war broke out in 1914. When the people of Ramsey, in 1919, decided to erect a War Memorial, an arrangement was made to take over the Kermode memorial for that purpose.

Very few people are aware that when it was decided to erect at Tynwald a Manx National War Memorial, Philip Kermode was consulted as to its form. At the request of the authorities, he created the noble and appropriate design for the great memorial that now adorns that historic site.

Philip left to his native town a library of valuable and rare books and MSS. I have not seen them for several years; but am wondering if the town authorities fully appreciate their educational value and are adequately safeguarding the collection.

Of all the family within the scope of my review I knew only Philip and Cushag intimately. Both had the same gentle kindliness and old-fashioned courtesy; proud, yet modest; sensitive and yet lovable.

I worked alongside Philip for ten years and observed with admiration his critical judgment. He thought, planned, and worked unselfishly, and made a contribution to the Manx people of great cultural value. He built well and will be remembered. Without hesitation I would claim him to be among the first half-dozen great Manxmen.

Parson Kermode’s third wife was Margaret Pizey. They had four children, two boys and two girls.

Alfred the Vicar of Conchan

One of the boys became the Rev. S. A. P. Kermode, M.A., Vicar of Kirk Conchan, from 1892 to 1904.

Of all the Kermode boys — and all six went to King William’s College — his school career was the most brilliant. He was fifth in the school in 1880. He left in 1881 when 19 years old.

He took prizes in many classical subjects, and finally won a scholarship to Queens’ College, Cambridge, at which he got his M.A. degree.

Alfred, when Vicar of Conchan, was an active member of the Antiquarian Society. He was strong in natural history subjects, and was the secretary of the Botanical section for five years. He contributed a paper of considerable value on the Manx Flora, which was afterwards printed in pamphlet form. He became President of the Society in 1902. Like all the others, he could not refrain from writing verse. His best known printed work is a poem on Saint Alban, an Early Christian missionary. He also wrote hymns and songs. He died in 1925, while Vicar of Haddenham, Ely.

Griffith the Rancher Son

The youngest son of Parson Kermode was born on 16th February,1866, and died 27th June, 1937. His name was Griffith Theodore. He was three years at the college. Soon after he left in 1881, he spent some time at the Ballaugh home. He was the adventurer of the family, and eventually left his native land for the United States. He became a successful Rancher on Canadian River.

Griffith was not lacking in the family’s distinguishing feature. For I find in the columns of the family Journal several poems by him; and they are not without merit.

Charles Kermode the Artist

The study of the Kermode Family has provided many unexpected discoveries; but none of more importance than the finding of the artist Charles Chatterley Kermode. He is not recorded in Moore’s Manx Worthies. But we can now, with certainty, place him in the first rank of Manx-born Artists. His early death was an irreparable loss to his country.

He was the second surviving son of Parson Kermode and his second wife Jane Bishop. Born in 1846, while his father was Chaplain of Ramsey, he died in 1878.
We have little knowledge of his school career. After winning a Foundation Scholarship in 1860, he entered King William’s College when fourteen. He stayed there for two and a half years. The College Register tells us nothing further about him. He left the College at Midsummer in 1862. We have one of his Sketch books dated 1864, when he was eighteen. Sketch book No. 1 has scores of little drawings in pencil. There are drawings of machinery, studies of groups of people, of girls’ faces, of quaint old people, and of scenery near Ramsey.

We know that about 1865 he became apprenticed to a Manchester engineering firm. He must have made good progress in his profession, for when he was 25, about 1870 or 1871, he was sent by his firm to the port of Riga in Russia.

After the year 1873 we have a few records of his movements. There is a curiously illustrated letter in our possession from his younger brother Philip, dated 10th July, 1873, to his sister Josie, one of the pet names for ‘ Cushag.’


Philip tells her that their brother Charles ‘ is about to go to Vienna, I would like to go too,’ he writes, ‘ as I am growing mouldy, musty, and fussy.’
Charles was then 27 and Philip was eighteen. Philip’s thumbnail sketches in this letter are charming, particularly one picturing the Vicarage at Kirk Maughold, where they then lived.
We have in our collection, too, a business-like letter from Charles to his father about his Vienna experiences. It is written from Vienna, and dated 22nd May, 1873. He writes:—

‘ We have received the very highest award given for English engineering excellence, and, as representing the company, I attended the ceremony where the awards were to be announced, and should have received the Diploma of Honour from the hands of the Archduke of Austria. But the Emperor, forsooth, was away, and the proceedings therefore were very tame.’

Charles closed his letter by saying that, as it was a broken day, he took the opportunity of being photographed on the spot, and that he would send a copy home by a later post. Quite recently Miss Phyllis Wood showed me three photographs of portraits which she had got from her good Bournemouth friend Miss Dora Brown. And, sure enough, one of them was the portrait of Charles, the very one he had taken at Vienna.

The other two were also of interest. ‘ Cushag,’ as we know, was always averse to being photographed; but here was a very charming one of her, taken when she was in her early twenties. The third was of Philip, seen in the act of studying the ‘ unread ‘ cross slab.

The Keys Election

There was also a photograph of a cartoon on the projected popular election of the House of Keys. It was dated 1st March, 1866. The election took place in April, 1867.

On the summit of Tynwald Hill is a flag bearing a Cross-Keys design and the words ‘ Popular Election.’ In the centre are the Manx Arms. One of the legs is vigorously kicking out into the open sea the old self-elected Keys. Another of its limbs in the form of a fist is holding a switch ominously bearing the single word ‘ Reform.’
The Keys are thrown into the sea regardless of their fate. Some appear already to be submerged. All will have to make a great struggle to survive.

A few are in the act of successfully mounting the sacred Ting once again. One of the figures nearing the summit has the caption in Latin, ‘ Non Mihi Relinqui ‘ — ‘ I have not relinquished my place! ‘Another closely following, bears the flag ‘ Mona Rediviva — Mona come to life again!’ A third, in the act of climbing over the surrounding fence, bears the flag with the Latin word Spero — ‘ I hope !’
Finally, it will be noted on examination, that Charles has figured only Sixteen Keys. We naturally wonder why he has taken that liberty.

It is evident that he was a student of history, and had come to know that in the early Statutes, under date 1422, the Keys themselves explained in their famous Declaration of the Manx Constitution how that number of Sixteen had arisen: ‘ Those were Twenty-Four Freehoulders, namely Eight in the Out Isles and Sixteen in your land of Mann — and that was in King Orry’s Days.’

Charles Kermode in figuring Sixteen Keys appears to want to stress the great antiquity of that number.

Another sketch of high merit is entitled ‘ Mona in Her Bark.’ It has a political bias, and exhibits the artist’s fine imagination as well as his patriotic feelings. In this connection it is interesting to remember that his father occasionally wrote leading articles for the Manx Sun newspaper, and the subjects of these sketches were in all likelihood discussed in the home.

The Kermode Women’s Journal ‘Ny Irey Lhaa ‘

We have given much time to the four Kermode boys. What of the Women of the Family? One died young, leaving six children. Strange to say, they all developed a literary bent. ‘ Cushag ‘ was, of course, the brightest star. But her printed poems are only a portion of her work. I find among the Kermode Papers quite a number in MS. which should be given to the public. Her poems are out of print, and should be re-published with additions that have come to light.

This literary bent of the Kermode women was exhibited in the creation of a unique Family Journal in MS. Its title is Ny Irey Lhaa,’ The Rising Day.’

First issued in 1878, it continued monthly for five years. All the numbers are in the Museum with the exception of one issue — the final one. Two copies only of 8 pp. foolscap folio were written and circulated among the contributors and a few friends of the family.

‘ Cushag ‘ was the editor-in-chief and Cherrill was her assistant and put the copies into writing.

Although many prose articles appear, the contributions of the Kermode girls were frequently in the form of poems, some of which how distinctive merit.

The eldest of the girls, born in 1848, was Minnie. Her pen-name was ‘ Granny.’ She married the Rev. S. N. Harrison, and became the mother of Canon Mark Harrison, of St. Paul’s. She was 30 when the Journal started. The next was Gussie, who was 27 in 1878,’ Cushag 26, Georgiana 22, and Rosie and Cherrill who were younger.

Both the father and mother were contributors, and so were the four boys.

The contents of the little newspaper range from philosophical, antiquarian and historical subjects, to serial stories, humorous sketches, jokes, and pictures. Poems there are without number, even songs set to original music.

There were only two members of Parson William Kermode’s Family living when this paper was written. They are Georgiana, the widow of the late W. H. Winscom, of Colorado, U.S.A. Born on 6th June,1856, her age is 89. Canon Harrison tells me she is now blind. The other is Miss Cherrill, in Bournemouth, with whom I have corresponded for many years. She takes a lively interest in her native land, and particularly in its Museum. She has given me much material for this paper. It is a pleasure to note that Tynwald in 1944 honoured her by placing her name on the Manx Civil List.

The Last of the Kermode Family

A Wyoming (U.S.A.) newspaper has an obituary of Georgiana, who had become the wife of Wm. H. Winscom. They were married on 22nd June, 1898, at Laramie, Wyoming. The account says that she came to North Park in 1890 to visit her brother Griffith Theodore Kermode, who had a ranch on Canadian River. After a visit home to the Isle of Man, she returned to the States again in 1892.

After Mr Winscom had sold his ranch they moved to Walden, where he was County Assessor for about twenty years. Mr. Winscom died on 27th June, 1937. His wife Georgiana died on 17th October,1945, at the Ivinson Hospital at Laramie, Wyoming, where she had been confined for several weeks because of a fractured hip ….

The account adds that Mrs. Winsom left a half-sister, Miss Cherrill Kermode; a half-brother, Griffith Theodore Kermode, of Long Beach, Mississippi; two nieces, Mrs. T. K. Howard and Mrs. George Brown,both of Walden, Cal.; and a nephew, Mr. L. C. Kermode of Laramie Also many other nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and grandnephews both in America and England. In spite of her blindness and other afflictions she was always courageous and uncomplaining. She had a fine sense of humour. She wrote many lovely little poems, and was a fine Christian woman.

There were several poems written by her for Ny Irey Lhaa, under the nom-de-plume ‘ Boggane.’

Miss Cherrill Kermode

On the 28th February, 1946, there passed away the last of the family of the Rev. William Kermode, namely Miss Cherrill. She was born on 11th March, 1860, almost completing her 86th year She was elected an honorary member of the Antiquarian Society, of which her brother Philip was the founder and of which both her father and brother Alfred had been presidents. She was buried beside her sister Josephine (‘ Cushag’) in Wimborne Cemetery, near Bournemouth.

Another Kermode MS. Journal

Two years after this paper on ‘ The Kermode Family of Ramsey ‘was read, the author received from Mrs. Kermode, of Oxford, widow of the Rev. S. A. P. Kermode, a copy of another manuscript newspaper.

Its title is The Ramsey Parsonage Gazette, dated 1st November,1861. In its size and character it is strangely similar to Ny Irey Lhaa, which was circulated among the Kermode family from 1878 to 1883.

Among the mass of papers, sketches, photographs, MS. books and other relics relating to the Kermode Family preserved in the Manx Museum, there are a few letters about the family written to me by a daughter of James Kermode, the youngest brother of Parson William. Her name was Annie Theresa. She was born in 1863, and lived for many years in or near Manchester until she was about 84.

1 Printed in The Manx Sun, 3rd July, 1835.

2 Further particulars of Parson Kermode will be found in South Ramsey and its Churches, by Rev. Canon Harrison, M.A., published at the Courier office in 1923.

3 Mannin, 1917, pp. 398, 541.

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