A stone near the Ballykissane Cillin with Jewish kabbalistic symbols.
Recently I learnt of an Irish legend told about the Kissane and Cashman families. An Irish legend states that the family who originally were called Kassin (which became Ciosain in Gaelic)had a fight over "taking the soup" and the Cashman moved from Galway to Cork and the Kissane to Kerry to the village of Ballykissane. The term taking the soup referred to those who changed their religion during the potato famine in order not to starve. However the split with the Cashman and Kissane happened much earlier in the 16th or 17th century. The legend is thus a confused memory of one group who embraced Catholicism and the other remaining loyal to Judaism with a later story of those who changed from Catholic to Protestant in the 19th century. It would seem that the Kissane's who moved to Ballykissane remained loyal to the Jewish faith at least in the privacy of their homes and among their relatives. Many of these Kissane later after 1760 embraced the Frankist version of Catholicism and gradually assimilated into the Irish Catholic population. It would seem that the Cashman families of Cork descend from Shamus Ciosain (Yacov Kassin/Cassin) whose son was Joseph Cashman (c.1600).
Ballykissane was the village that the TV show Ballykissangel was based on and is a village near Killorglin on the famous Ring of Kerry. Stephen Joseph Kissane writes on the Kissane facebook page: "Ballykissane has a burial ground that is called a disused Cillín and has a very sad history. It was used initially for non Christian Kissane Crypto Jews and for infants of Christian parents who died before baptism. The un-baptised infants and crypto Jews were buried away from the consecrated graveyard alongside murderers, lunatics and others deemed beyond salvation. Kissanes had ceased to live in the immediate area by 1911 but the infant burials continued until 1959.Only small broken stones now mark the graves and the graveyard very overgrown. A standing stone with a plaque of remembrance for the infant children buried here was erected recently. Kissane kabbalistic symbols exist on a stone. Along both sides of a fissure are five cup and rings and around 12 deep and rounded cup marks. Other rings may have weathered away." The number five and the symbol of the ring is a Kissane emblem as I explained in my earlier article on the Kissane/Kassin family. The cups represent their role as Swan Knights who protected the Grail which was associated with the "Cup of Blessing" mentioned in the opening of the Zohar.
Ballykissane Famine era cottage
An Irish historian David Ring also writes about the Kissane origins: "The Irish name Kissane used in County Kerry is an Anglicization of O' Ciosain. Essentially now a Munster name, it was transformed to Cashman in County Cork and Kissane in County Kerry. Father Woulfe, and early expert on names, suggests that the O'Ciosain sept originated in Ui Maine in County Galway and moved South from there. In Dublin's Royal Irish Academy, there are accounts of O' Ciosains who were scribes and writers of Irish tales and tracts on Irish grammar.
In the 1930s, John Kissane, writing as Sean O' Ciosain, translated the Vicar of Wakefield and other classics into Irish. Around this same period, the Reverend Edward Joseph Kissane was writing bible commentaries. (The Dictionary of Irish Surnames, Ida Grehan.) Other well known Kissane's include: Eamonn Kissane, a member of the Dail Eireann, first elected in 1932 as a Fianna Fail Representative, Erin Kissane, an internationally known business writer and editor, and Bill Kissane, a university professor and writer who has published many works on politics, civil wars, and particularly The Irish Civil War. Additionally, John Kissane owns a sheep farm on the Ring of Kerry that is dedicated to preserving the Irish heritage of mountain sheep. In the United States, the Kissane's have been successful in many areas, particularly business and higher education. The majority of the Kissane's that came to the United States settled in New York and Illinois. Civil War records show that five Kissane's served in that conflict, four on the Union side and one Confederate. The honor and great heritage of this family is proudly represented by our own Division 7 President Dan Kissane. Dan is truly the personification of the Kissane motto: "Nothing is difficult to the brave and the faithful.""
Jim Cashman originally from Cork writes:"...Also when I worked with an American firm I found it beneficial as the Irish Americans seemed to know the name was Irish and my Jewish customers often thought I was Jewish, which suited me fine! All in all the name 'Cashman" is a good one! When I was a child in Ireland, the everyday language was English and indeed my parents spoke very little Gaelic. But when I went to boarding school around the age of twelve, Gaelic was more often spoken in class than was English. So it came as a surprise to me to find that there were two people with different names in English which became the same as mine when in Gaelic. The name was Ciosain or O'Ciosain. I always knew this was the Gaelic for my name but when a fellow called Kissane also called himself O'Ciosain I decided I had better take a deeper look into the origins of our name "Cios" I was told by our teacher means 'tax' in Gaelic so it was likely that originally, back in one of Britain's plantations the Ciosain Clan were tax-collectors brought in from Scotland, since the Scots and the Irish are the same Celtic race, it would be mutually acceptable. It was common for England when they conquered Irish land to 'plant' it with its own people. This was particularly prevalent around 1650 when Cromwell went to Ireland to conquer the country and to change it's religion. Up until then Ireland and England had the same religion. I was further told that during the Great Famine in 1845 some of the family of O Ciosain "took the soup" and the family split. One half changed their name to Cashman and the other half to Kissane which would have been a more natural derivation than Cashman. 'Drinking or taking the soup' referred to those starving people who went to soup-kitchens which made taking soup conditional on changing one's religion. Nobody seemed to know which side drank the soup...it depended on which side of the family one came from..."
It would seem that the Jewish Kissane/Kassin family of merchants were also to be found in Morocco where a mountain called Jebel Kissane was named after them by the Jewish inhabitants of the town of Agdz. This area of Morocco was once a centre of Jewish civilisation for many centuries. This area today is very dry and arid but it is believed to have been wetter and more fertile in the past and the Draa river extended at that time to the Atlantic. Remains of ships have been found in this area of the desert. Many of the crypto-Jews of Claddagh and the Galway Bay area were fishermen and sailors and it would seem that a group of Jews led by a Kissane went to live in the Jewish settlements of the region that surrounded what was called Jebel Kissane (the mountain of Kissane) as part of the Sephardi community called the Megorashim. In the far north of Morocco is also found the settlement of Beni Kissane (sons of Kissane). We also know that Rabbi Abraham Kassin (1810-1897 of Aleppo)[son of Rabbi Bekhor Kassin (1745-1877)]visited Morocco in the 19th century.
Ballykissane Pier on the River Laune
There is also an interesting discussion on Ballykissane in the comments to the article about the 1916 terrorist attacks and the monument in Ballykissane on the Unrepentant Communist Blog
Note: The Australian pronunciation of Kissane and Kassin sounds different but the Irish pronunciation of Kissane and Ciosain sound almost identical to Kassin. Also Kissane pronounced Kissani in Africa is the plural form. Thus Beni Kissani/Kissane means sons of the Kissan/Kassin.