Kirkness Family

Captain William Kirkness

Captain William Kirkness

The ‘patriarch’ of this family is Captain William Kirkness of Kernick and his wife Jane Sanders. On 23 February 1844 their son The Rev. William John Kirkness married Julia Mary Man which helps explain why there is a Kirkness Family page on the Man family web site.

Although William John Kirkness and Julia Man had NINE children not one of their nine children married and thus there are no (as far as we know) descendants from this particular Kirkness-Man line. To view a diagram showing the relationship among various families, including the Man and Kirkness families, click here.

There is mention of Captain Kirkness in ‘Old Falmouth’ by Susan Gay as follows:  Captain William Kirkness was descended from the Kirknesses of Kirkness (Orkney), of whom Sir Thomas Kirkness, Knight, was an eminent person at the Court of Scotland in the fifteenth century. On the maternal side he traced descent from the old Welsh family of Matthews – originating from one of the ancient Welsh princes. The Matthews family intermarried in later days with some old Cornish families- (Arms). How accurate any of this is is hard to say.

William Kirkness

Also from Susan Gay’s ‘Old Falmouth’ – Chapter – From Days of the Old Packet Service: Captain Kirkness, before he was twenty-one years of age, performed a deed which attracted great attention in the town [Falmouth]. The captain of a West Indiaman having died on the homeward voyage, he took command and was attacked by a French privateer of superior force. It was a case in which his ready wit saved the ship. He requested the purser to personate him, surrender his sword, and offer refreshments to his captors. Very soon they were not only safely down in the saloon, but under the mahogany, when he immediately ordered the hatches to be closed down, and made all sail into Falmouth with the privateer as a prize and his would-be captors as prisoners. For this he was given a permanent command in the Packet Service, in which he remained to the end of his career, while Falmouth made great rejoicing over the clever exploit which had turned the tables upon the enemy.

Such a marked beginning was sure to be followed by more bravery. Captain Kirkness afterwards distinguished himself at Georgetown, Demerara, by running his Packet, the Queen Charlotte, against heavily-armed privateers, which were preparing to swoop down on some defenceless merchant vessels. It was an act of great courage – as one alone of these privateers could have overwhelmed the Packet – and it met with the good fortune it deserved, since the enemy, as usual, sheered off. He lived for many years at Kernick, near Penryn, and died in 1851, at the age of 69.

Further notes on Captain Kirkness from other sources:

‘Captain Wm Kirkness’s Packet the “Despatch” was wrecked near Malta in April, 1812 and he wanted a replacement. He returned to Falmouth in June and reported that the “Queen Charlotte” was in the Cattewater at Plymouth. It was arranged that a Mr Bennett should inspect her; his report must have been favourable because Kirkness was appointed as her captain on 8 September and sailed from Falmouth for Surinam on 16 September. When he arrived at Demerara, the government requested him to take soldiers and volunteers to protect the cork fleet from an American privateer. He found the fleet and brought them in safely.

In the late summer of 1813 he was at St Kitts and saved his Packet by sailing out of the harbour to escape from a hurricane; all the ships that remained were wrecked. Kirkness fell in with HM Brig “Harlequin” on 21 January 1815 and by a mistake in signals, the two ships exchanged broadsides. The Packet was undamaged but the First Lieutenant of the Brig was killed and the Master dangerously wounded. A week later she spoke with a Portuguese brig which had been at sea for 69 days and was desperately short of provisions; Kirkness supplied her from the Packet.

The “Queen Charlotte” was owned jointly by Kirkness and various Plymouth merchants and was a “Temporary” hired by the Post Office for six-monthly periods at the rate of 2,800 pounds a year in 1815, but only 2,100 pounds in 1816. In May 1816 Kirkness transferred to an established Packet, the “Countess of Chichester”, and Thomas Beer became the Captain of the “Queen”. She only sailed for three more voyages as a Packet and was discharged from Post Office service in November 1817. She continued to sail for Bullock & Co. of Plymouth until 1830 and then disappeared from Lloyds Register.’ (Taken from:

BELOW FROM: History of the post-office packet service between the years 1793-1815 By Arthur Hamilton Norway:

In the following month an important service was rendered to the colony of Demerara by Captain Kirkness, commanding the Packet “Queen Charlotte,” a service recalling in some degree the patriotic conduct of Captain Dyneley at Dominica six years before.

The “Queen Charlotte” was lying in Georgetown harbour in the month of November, waiting for her mails, and Captain Kirkness from the deck of his ship could see hanging about the entrance to the port a suspicious-looking vessel. He made his observations quietly, and, having satisfied himself about the matter, took his boat, went on shore, and demanding an audience of the governor, General Carmichael, informed him that an American Privateer was cruising outside the harbour.

It so happened that General Carmichael had that day received letters from Berbice, informing him, on the authority of a captured merchant captain, that the “Rattlesnake,” a Privateer which had made herself extremely notorious since the outbreak of the war, was on her way to Demerara with the design of intercepting the Cork fleet, which was expected to arrive in Georgetown from day to day. He had, moreover, information of another powerful Privateer, which, a day or two before, had engaged a well-armed merchant vessel for three hours, and which had since captured several smaller craft within sight of the shore. Both these vessels were known to be heavily armed and manned. The “Rattlesnake” carried sixteen 9-pounder carronades, two long nines, and her “Long Tom,” mounted on a traverse, was no less than a 42-pounder. If her consort carried an equal weight of metal, the two, acting together, could easily scatter the Cork fleet.

General Carmichael stated these facts to Captain Kirkness, and appealed to him to do whatever might be in his power to hold the Privateers in check, and so provide for the safe arrival of the expected fleet, there being at the time no British ship of war at his disposal. Captain Kirkness undertook the adventure willingly. There was, indeed, no other course, unless he was prepared to stand by idly while the Privateers swooped down and worked their will on the coming merchantmen. He received on board a large party of troops, with some volunteers from the militia; and aided, as Captain Stevens had been, by his Packet’s “good looks,” sallied out to meet the fleet.

The two Privateers were sighted as soon as the “Queen Charlotte” left the harbour; but by some curious hesitation, a most unusual quality in Americans, they did not attack, but hung on the wake of the Packet, as if believing her too strong for them, until she met the fleet; and then, recognizing that their opportunity was lost, they bore away on another tack, and were not seen again.

The credit due to Captain Kirkness for this exploit is not lessened by the fact that the enemy hung back from action, for this was a stroke of luck on which he could not have calculated. He risked a fight against overwhelming odds – for the “Rattlesnake” alone could have blown the “Queen Charlotte” out of the water – and by his courage and audacity saved the merchants of this country and of Demerara from very serious losses, which nothing but his interposition could possibly have averted.


November 9, 1812. His Majesty’s Packet, Queen Charlotte, and the armed-brig Hawk, having returned into port this day, with the Cork fleet, which was exposed to the enemy’s vessels upon these coasts: Captain Kirkness, commanding, has reported the good conduct of the troops on board the two vessels, with the exception of three or four discontented individuals, dismissed and sent on shore; and who, with such disposition, should not have volunteered. In consequence of the Captain’s representation, His Excellency the Acting-Governor returns his warmest thanks to Brigade-Major Brandt, Captain King, and the Detachments under their command.

On Saturday the 7th instant, Captain Kirkness, with the Packet and Brig, cruising off Berbice, where the enemy had been the day before, fell in with the fleet from Cork for Demerary, without any convoy, and saw the whole safe in, on the morning of the 8th instant, which would probably otherwise have become a prey to the enemy – who, it is certain, received intelligence of the former armament, and there is every reason to suppose upon the present occasion, timely notice has been obtained by them.


We observe also, in a Gazette of the same colony, and in the course of a rather heated paragraph, the following error respecting the Packet, last from our own river; and we feel it our duty, in justice to Captain Kirkness, to correct the same: – “The Queen Charlotte (it is stated) on account of a report of privateers being off the coast, deeming it prudent to run into Demerary river, and forward our mail overland.” Now, in the first place, were such the case, it would certainly have been more prudent for the Packet to have made the first port she could, instead of passing it for a different one, in which course the real danger laid. But, the fact is, in the second place, the reason why Captain Kirkness passed Berbice was, because of the rollers were so tremendous, that no boat could possibly have lived, and therefore, the mail must have been lost entirely.  The Captain’s son William who married Julia Man was a clergyman, some of whose history has been traced.

Appointment of Vicar:

William Kirkness Appointment Sept 6 1838

Among the descendants of Captain Kirkness was Francis Charles Hingston (who became Hingeston-Randolph) who was the son of Francis Hingston and Jane Matilda Wilson Kirkness; Jane being the eldest child of the captain and his wife Jane Sanders and thus the sister in law of Julia Mary Man.

The Who’s Who for 1905 gives this entry:

HINGESTON-RANDOLPH, Rev. Prebendary Francis Charles, Rector of Ringmore, Devon, since 1800; Prebendary of Exeter since 1885; born Truro, 31 March 1833; o. s. of late Francis Hingeston, St. Ives and Truro, and Jane, e. d. of late Wm. Kirkness, Kernick; m.Martha (d. 1904), e.d of late Rev. Herbert Randolph, assuming her name, 1800. Educ.: Truro School; Exeter Coll. Oxford (M.A. 1859). Publications: ‘Ancient Cornish Crosses and Fonts’, 1850; ‘The Poems of Francis Hingeston’, 1857; ‘Capgrave’s Chronicle of England’, 1858; ‘Capgrave’s Illustrious Henrys’, 1859; ‘Royal and Historical Letters, temp. Henry IV’, 1800; ‘The Register of Edmund de Stafford, Bishop of Exeter’, 1886; ‘The Constitution of the Cathedral Body of Exeter’, 1887; ‘The Registers of Вishops Bronescombe, Quivil, and Bytton (Bishops of Exeter)’, 1889 ; ‘The Register of Bishop Stapeldon’, 1892 ; ‘The Register of Bishop Grandiseon, Part I.’, 1894; Part II., 1897; Part III., 1899; ‘The Register of Bishop Brantyngham, Part I, 1901; Part II., 1904 ; ‘The Architectural History’ of St. Germans Church, Cornwall, 1903. Address: Ringmore Rectory, near Kingsbridge.

A fuller description is given in Men and Women of the Time: A Dictionary of Contemporaries:

HINGESTON-RANDOLPH, The Rev. Prebendary Francis Charles, M.A., born at Truro, March 31, 1833, is the only son of the late Francis Hingeston, St. Ives and Truro, and Jane, eldest daughter of the late William Kirkness, of Kernick. He was educated at the Truro Grammar School, and at Exeter College, Oxford (B.A., Double Hon. fourth Classics and Mathematics, 1855; M.A. 1858). Having held a curacy in Oxford (Holywell), he was appointed in 1859 to the Perpetual Curacy of Hampton Gay, near Oxford, and in I860 to the Rectory of Ringmore, Devon. He was appointed Domestic Chaplain to the Baroness le Despenser (Dowager Viscountess Falmouth), 1859; Rural Dean of Woodleigh, Devon, 1879; and Prebendary of Exeter, 1885. He is the author of “Specimens of Ancient Cornish Crosses, Fonts, &c,” 1850; “Four Years of a Country Friendly Society,” 1870; has edited “The Poems of Francis Hingeston,” 1857 ; “The Chronicle of England, by John Capgrave” (under the direction of the Master of the Rolls);

The Leslie Stephen edition of the DNB gives this description:

HINGESTON-RANDOLPH [formerly Hingston], FRANCIS CHARLES (18331910), antiquary, born at Truro on 31 March 1833, was son of Francis Hingston (17961841), controller of customs at Truro, who belonged to a family long settled at St. Ives, had literary tastes, and wrote poems (edited by the son in 1857). His mother was Jane Matilda, daughter of Captain William Kirkness. From Truro grammar school Francis passed in 1851 to Exeter College, Oxford, as Elliott exhibitioner. He graduated 1855 with an honorary fourth class in the final pass school, and proceeded M.A. in 1859. Ordained in 1856, he served as curate of Holywell, Oxford, until 1858, when he moved to Hampton Gay, in the same county, succeeding to the incumbency of the parish next year. In 1860 he became rector of Ringmore, near Kingsbridge, Devonshire, the patronage to which living afterwards became vested in his family. He remained at Ringmore for the rest of his life. On his marriage in 1860 to Martha, only daughter of Herbert Randolph, incumbent of Melrose, Roxburghshire, he added, at the wish of his father-inlaw, the name of Randolph to his own and adopted Hingeston, the earlier form of the spelling of his family surname.

Hingeston-Randolph developed antiquarian tastes early. At seventeen he published ‘Specimens of Ancient Cornish Crosses and Fonts’ (London and Truro, 4to, 1850). Much historical work followed, but his scholarship was called in question. In the ‘Rolls’ series he edited Capgrave’s ‘Chronicle’ (1858); Capgrave’s ‘Liber de Illustribus Henricis’ (1859), and ‘Royal and Historical Letters during the Reign of Henry the Fourth,’ vol. i. 1399-1404 (1860). The last volume was especially censured, and when Hingeston-Randolph had completed a second volume in 1864 collation of it by an expert with the original documents led to the cancelling and reprinting of sixty-two pages and the addmg of sixteen pages of errata. Two copies of the volume are in the British Museum, one in the revised form and the other in the original state. Of each version eight copies were preserved, but none was issued to the public.

In 1885 Frederick Temple, then bishop of Exeter, made Hingeston-Randolph a prebendary of Exeter Cathedral, and at the bishop’s suggestion he began editing the ‘Episcopal Registers’ of the diocese. Between 1886 and 1909 he completed those of eight bishops of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries (11 pts.). He mainly restricted himself to indexing the contents of the registers, a method which limited the historical utility of his scheme.

Hingeston-Randolph specially interested himself in church architecture, and was often consulted about the restoration of west country churches. He wrote ‘Architectural History of St. Germans Church, Cornwall’ (1903), and contributed many architectural articles to the ‘Building News’ and the ‘Ecclesiologist.’ For ten years (1879-90) he was rural dean of Woodleigh, and brought the work of the district to a high state of efficiency. In his articles ‘Up and down the Deanery,’ which he contributed to the ‘Salcombe Parish Magazine,’ he gave an interesting historical account of every parish under his charge. He died at Ringmore on 27 Aug. 1910, and was buried in the churchyard there. His wife predeceased him in 1904. He left four sons and six daughters.

According to the new version of the DNB the reason why Francis may have been invited to become an editor for the Rolls series was because he was romantically involved with the eldest daughter of Joseph Stevenson but he apparently jilted Stevenson’s daughter to marry instead Martha Randolph who was the daughter of the minister of Melrose, Roxburghshire and may have been an heiress. (see new DNB for details) .

Some Fragments:

Below Charles Desborough Holworthy marriage to Emelia (Amelia?) Sanders Kirkness etc. September 28, 1828.

Charles Desborough Holworthy marriage Sept 28 1828 edited

Marriage announcement in Cornwall newspaper of 3 November 1843, Friday. At St. Gluvias, on Tuesday last, by the Rev. W.J. Kirkness, James Henderson, Esq., Dock Yard, Devon-port, to Margaret Anne, youngest daughter of William Kirkness, Esq., of Kernick, near Penryn.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.