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Josephine Kermode

Epithet: Poet (1852-1937)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: From ‘New Manx Worthies’ (2006):

'Cushag' was the nom-de-plume of the poet Josephine Kermode, third daughter of William Kermode, chaplain of St Paul's, Ramsey, by his second marriage. She was born at 73 Parliament Street into a large and talented family and spent many happy childhood days at her grandparents' home, Claughbane, which she immortalised in her poem, 'The Home Place.'

Her father's vocation dictated that the family must move homes as he took up new appointments, and Josephine lived at various times at The Parsonage, May Hill, Maughold Vicarage and Ballaugh Rectory. After their father's death, the family lived for a time at Hillside, Vernon Road, and then at Claughbane

All the Kermode children were encouraged to develop their artistic and literary gifts from an early age. Writing poetry was a lifelong interest for Josephine, who was drawn to write about the Manx countryside and characters and the traditional way of life.

She was especially close to her younger brother Philip Moore Callow Kermode, born in 1855, who went on to write the monumental work on Manx Crosses and to become first curator of the Manx Museum.

As a poet Cushag was at her most prolific between the years 1907 and 1919, when she had several small books published containing her poems and plays. These included three editions of poems, The Peel Plays (or Sketches of Manx Life), and a volume entitled Ellan Vannin. She also contributed to the magazine Mannin. Some of her verses were composed in dialect, and many were laced with words and phrases in Manx Gaelic which she called `our beautiful old language'.

Among her poems were 'With the Boats', 'Croit-ny-Garey', 'Oie'll Verrey', and 'Bons', in which an old woman sits alone by the fireside, reflecting on times gone by when her children - now far away - were young.

When her work began to appear in print, she chose the Manx national flower as her nom-de-plume.

Josephine Kermode was noted for her gentle nature and charming appearance, with her golden hair turning slightly grey worn in a coronet of shining plaits. She was a familiar figure as she drove about the countryside in her trap, drawn by a fat and friendly pony named Brownie. Sometimes she would be accompanied by Philip, a scholarly-looking man with an alert expression, and together they would be engaged in lively conversation while Brownie went on her way with very little guidance. In adulthood, brother and sister lived together in a secluded house at the top of Glen Auldyn. There was a stream running through the garden, stabling at the back, and a sheltered meadow running beside the river in which the pony could graze.

Cushag was in her element in the countryside and loved to ramble among the wild and inaccessible places of the upper glen where she gained inspiration for her poems. She lived the life of the imagination and, for her, the lonely places were peopled by 'Themselves' - the fairy folk who loved to wreak jeel (mischief) on poor, unsuspecting humans

Constance Mona Douglas, who knew her well, remarked: 'She had a delightful sense of fun and used to relate tales of fairy pranks with great gusto and sympathy, albeit markedly with Themselves and not with their human victims!'

Her brother's dream was realised in 1922 with the opening of the Manx Museum, and he was appointed its first curator. But it meant that he and his sister would have to uproot from their beloved Glen Auldyn and move to Douglas. It was a big upheaval for two rather elderly people, but they learned to enjoy the increased society that town life brought them, and they spent some very happy years there.

The long companionship of brother and sister came to an end in 1932 with the sudden death of Philip. Much to the regret of the Manx people, who held her in great affection, Cushag moved away to spend her last years with a sister in Bournemouth, where she died in 1937. There is a memorial to her at the family grave in Maughold Churchyard. The inscription includes the following, words:

'With love and zeal she helped her brother Philip in all his work for the Manx people.'

On her death, the Ramsey Courier paid tribute to her gentle nature and the charm and tenderness of her poems, saying: `To Manx people, they are not merely literary creations of high standing, but are treasures of the heart.'

Constance Kewin Radcliffe, an admirer of her work, published a volume entitled Them Oul' Times containing 48 poems by Cushag in 1993.

Biography written by Sue Woolley.

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.245-6.)

Culture Vannin


Gender: Female

Date of birth: 18 September 1852

Date of death: 15 July 1937

Name Variant: Kermode, Josephine 'Cushag'


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