Kennish, William (DNB01)

KENNISH or KINNISH, WILLIAM (1799–1862), Manx poet, son of Thomas Kennish by his wife, Margaret (Radcliffe), was baptised at Kirk Maughold, Isle of Man, on 24 Feb. 1799. Of humble parentage, he was reared as a ploughboy, but in 1821 entered the navy as a common seaman, learned English of his messmates, having previously known only his native dialect, and rose to be a warrant officer. He was ship's carpenter on the Hussar, bearing the flag of Sir Charles Ogle upon the North American station, 1829-30, and while stationed at Halifax devised a plan for concentrating a ship's broadside with greater effect than hitherto attempted upon a given mark. His plan, which met with encouragement from Captain Edward Boxer of the Hussar, was tried by Sir Charles Napier on board the Galatea in 1831, and was recommended to the admiralty, to which body Kennish also submitted a theodolite of his invention. In June 1832 he received the gold Isis medal from the Society of Arts. He published his essay, on concentrating a ship's broadside, in 1837 in a handsome quarto, with nineteen plates, and subsequently he served upon the men-of-war Tribune and Donegal in the Mediterranean and in the Channel. But he felt that he had received no encouragement from the admiralty at all commensurate with the labour and money that he had expended upon his essay, and he left the navy in or about 1841. Three years later he published in London ‘Mona's Isle and other Poems’ (1844, 8vo, a scarce volume), with a long subscription list of naval men. Some of the local pieces, such as ‘The Curraghs of Lezayre,’ more especially those in ballad metre, have merit, and the book is a mine of Manx folk-lore. Disappointed at the limited circulation of his fame, Kennish went over to America, became attached to the United States admiralty, for which body he made a survey of the Isthmus of Panama, and died at New York on 19 March 1862, at the age of sixty-three.

[Harrison's Bibliotheca Monensis (Manx Soc.), 2nd edit. 1876, p. 165; Kennish's Works in Brit. Museum Library; note kindly furnished by Mr. R. Cortell Cowell.]

T. S.