Born in 1921 above the family shop in Castle Street, Douglas, Robert Arthur ‘Ron’ Kissack had a varied experience of the Second World War.
He briefly served in the Home Guard and then went on to enlist with the Royal Air Force in October 1940.
Before that, as a civilian Ron worked in the offices of the Steam Packet Company as a clerk, manning the desk during the evacuation of Dunkirk – in which three Steam Packet ships were lost as they helped with rescue efforts, with an estimated 25,000 troops being transported by the ferry company.
Jane reflected how Ron had to speak with the families of those who were serving on the Steam Packet ships and who came to the local office to ask about their husbands, sons and brothers, and how ‘my father had dealt with far more at the age of 18 than I ever had to face at the equivalent age’.
She remembered a newspaper cutting he had held onto, showing young men signing on for the Local Defence Volunteers in Douglas (at an office which is now the stove supplier next to the Brown Bobby petrol station on Peel Road), many of whom were also Steam Packet clerks.
Ron’s RAF service began with basic training in Morecambe, going on to do an overseas posting in South Africa for six years.
Jane said that he was ‘proud of his time serving in the RAF’, remaining a lifelong supporter of the RAF association and attending annual commemorative services.
Returning to work at the Steam Packet Company in the postwar period, the ‘hard-working and ambitious’ Ron rose up through the ranks to become catering superintendent of the company’s large fleet during the 1960s.
It was on one of these boats that he met his future wife Val, who was working as a steward – and who ‘freely confessed’ that she thought Ron looked like Mario Lanza, a heartthrob actor of the time.
Ron asked her out in August 1966, and they were married in December 1966.
‘They didn’t really hang about,’ Jane joked.
Since then they were happily married for 56 years.
Ron went on to become assistant general manager at the Steam Packet in 1968, taking over from his friend and colleague Sid Shimmin as general manager for the last part of his career.
Aside from the interruption during the war years, he would spend a career of 40 years at the Steam Packet with Jane saying that he was ‘in many ways [also] married to the company’.
Speaking about his interests, Jane said that earlier in his life he enjoyed tennis, riding motorcycles, and in retirement, following West Brom football team, cricket and snooker.
He also enjoyed having time to travel out to Australia to visit his sister Pat and her husband Ernest.
She added that despite not being a performer himself, that he had always been a strong supporter of those in the family, such as his sister Pat Quigley, and of then Val, who would go on to perform as leading lady in the Douglas Choral Union.
In his later years he ‘enthusiastically embraced’ becoming a grandparent and spent many happy hours taking his grandsons out on picnics and trips around the island.
In summary, Jane said that he was ‘a fiercely loving and proud father, who was determined to support me in all my endeavours’ and had ‘a generous, loving, loyal, determined and fiercely independent spirit’.