Friday, 10 August 2007

McCracken's Bar

... then back to Belfast and down Joys Entry to McCracken's Bar.

Mary Ann McCracken was born in 1770, one of six children from a very remarkable family. The McCrackens were one of a handful of very influential Presbyterian families who were keenly interested in promoting social reform and the cultural revival of Ireland's ancient poetry, music and language.

Mary Ann is probably better known to many as the devoted sister of Henry Joy McCracken who, in 1791, helped establish the Society of United Irishmen.

The entry, which runs between High Street and Anne Street is named after Henry Joy himself and is said to mark the route of his final journey from the Old Belfast Jailhouse to his execution at the Market House in nearby Cornmarket.

Mary Ann was a remarkable woman in her own right and far ahead of her time. She campaigned for the rights and welfare of women and children and believed that destitute children should be educated. She fought for the abolition of slavery and the improvement in conditions for factory workers. She was also a business woman and along with her sister Margaret ran a Muslin shop in Belfast. After Henry Joy's death and with characteristic spirit she overcame strong family opposition and brought up his illegitimate daughter in the family home in Rosemary Street. She later lived at 62 Donegall Pass where an Ulster Historical Circle Plaque marks the house.

Mary Ann achieved great longevity and died at the ripe old age of 96. Her interest in social reform remained almost until her death in 1866. She is buried in Clifton Street graveyard.
McCracken's Cafe Bar is dedicated to the memory of Mary Ann, one of Belfast's finest daughters.

In Belfast town, they built a tree
And the Redcoats mustered there
I saw him come to the beat of a drum
Down to the barrack's square
He kissed his sister, went aloft
He bade his last goodbye
And as he died, I turned and cried
They have murdered Henry Joy!