Thursday, 7 June 2007

'Barney' Hughes

The home of Bernard 'Barney' Hughes, philantropist and creator of the famous Belfast bap, is to be marked by a blue plaque.

Mr Hughes, a self-made businessman, is remembered in his adopted city as an enlightened employer and benefactor of the poor.

Now his former home at College Square North in the city centre is to be marked with a blue plaque by the Ulster History Circle.

Barney Hughes arrived in Belfast from County Armagh in 1826, aged 18, to begin working as a labourer.

Proving to be a shrewd businessman, he was, by the 1870s, the owner of the largest bakery and milling concern in Ireland.

During the famine years in the 1840s he created a standardised bread bap which he sold at a reasonable price.

The small loaf, which survives today under the name of ''the Belfast bap," became so popular that it was, and remains the subject of a children's street song.

Mr Hughes was the city's first Catholic municipal representative and was renowned for his good works.

A prominent philanthropist, he donated the land on which St Peter's Cathedral was built.

He also donated money towards the erection of a statue of the fiery orator, Dr Henry Cooke.

The statue, known colloquially as the 'Black Man, still stands in front of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution in Wellington Place.

A stained-glass triple window in St Peter's was dedicated to Barney Hughes's first wife.

The window and a side altar in the cathedral are also dedicated to one of his daughters.

Barney Hughes is remembered in Belfast as a courageous opponent of sectarianism, an industrial reformer and a man who sought justice and equality for all citizens.