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Henry Joy McCracken.

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Henry Joy McCracken.


Henry's Song

Henry was born at 39 High Street, Belfast, on 31 August 1767. He was the fifth child of Captain John McCracken, a Belfast ship owner and rope maker, and Ann Joy, daughter of Francis Joy, who had founded the Belfast News-Letter and General Advertiser in 1737.

The Joys were of Huguenot descent, their name being originally Joyeuse, both the McCracken and Joy families were among the leaders of Belfast industry, read more from Mary Lowry's 'History of Belfast'

Henry was tall, standing just under six feet, with fair hair. He tended to be rash and impulsive He was apprenticed to the textile trade, in 1789 Henry Joy was appointed Manager of a cotton mill on the Falls Road.

He and his sister, Mary Ann McCracken, founded the first Sunday School in Belfast, he worked as a social reformer and brought about improvements in working conditions in mills. He started a school to provide free education to the children of the poor. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792, gathering together itinerant harpers and bands of what was then a dying tradition. He is said to have fathered a child with Mary Bodle.

McCracken’s radical ideas included political reform and in 1791 he was a founder member of the Society of United Irishmen. and he later was to become a member of the Ulster Directory. In 1795, in the company of Wolfe Tone, Robert Simms, Samuel Nelson and Thomas Russell at the site of MacArt's Fort on Cave Hill, outside Belfast they swore the oath "Never to desist in our efforts until we have subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted our independence".

The Battle of Antrim.

In 1796 the leaders, including Henry Joy and his brother, were arrested and spent fifteen months in Dublin's Kilmainham Jail, When the call to rise to arms came in June 1798, McCracken led the attack on Antrim where they were routed by the army, and he went into hiding. He was arrested near Carrickfergus, tried on the next day .in Belfast, and hanged that evening June 17th 1798 His sister Mary Ann accompanied him from the prison cell to the gallows .outside the Market House in Cornmarket. Mary Ann had a doctor waiting in case the body could be revived. He was buried in the nearby St George’s graveyard, High Street, but the remains were later re-buried in Clifton Street graveyard.

See also the United Irishmen, and The 1798 Rebellion in Irish History

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