Monthly Archives: January 2019


Thomas McCabe: Belfast Charitable Society Member, Goldsmith, Watchmaker & United Irishman


Thomas McCabe was a goldsmith and cotton manufacturer who had a business in North Street. Together with Robert Joy and Captain McCracken he financed cotton spinning machinery for the Poor House to teach the children and women a skill. This proved so successful that McCabe, Joy and McCracken opened the first water powered mill in Ireland for Cotton Spinning in 1784. The United Irishmen were explicitly anti-slavery and many of them refused to eat sugar, molasses, rum and other products associated with the slave trade. Thomas McCabe was a radical from his early days, and denounced Waddell Cunningham’s scheme to establish [...]

Thomas McCabe: Belfast Charitable Society Member, Goldsmith, Watchmaker & United Irishman2019-01-22T09:19:54+00:00

‘North Belfast: Bricks & Mortals’: Historical Lecture Series Returns to Clifton House this Spring


Our ever-popular lecture series returns to Clifton House this February - proudly supported by the Belfast Charitable Society, in partnership with the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade. 'North Belfast Bricks & Mortals' will explore the unique heritage of North Belfast, it's buildings, people and the events that have shaped it. From the McCabe family and the 1798 rebellion to the Troubles of recent times - the subject matter is diverse, with something for everyone. Guest speakers include Dr Éamon Phoenix, Dr Patricia Marsh & Tony Macaulay amongst others. The talks take place over six Thursday evenings from 7th Feb- 14th [...]

‘North Belfast: Bricks & Mortals’: Historical Lecture Series Returns to Clifton House this Spring2019-01-21T14:57:44+00:00

#OnThisDay 1807: The Water Rate Collectors


The Belfast Charitable Society had been responsible for bringing water to Belfast from the 1790s. However, making water pipes from tree trunks, laying them and employing engineers to work out the most appropriate courses all came at a cost. On this day (17th January) 1807 it was recorded that the Water Rate Collectors had been sent out to those who have not paid their extra water money. It was stipulated that all arrears were to be paid and if this was not complied with, the offenders were to have their water supply cut off ‘without loss of time’ The collectors had [...]

#OnThisDay 1807: The Water Rate Collectors2019-01-17T09:42:17+00:00

#OnThisDay 1869: The (alleged) medicinal use of gin


In the mid-18th century gin was known as 'mothers ruin', and over a century later it was still frowned upon by the Belfast Charitable Society. #OnThisDay 1869 James Boyd, a resident, had brought gin into the Poor House for an old lady. When he was caught James argued it was for medical purposes. The Steward felt that the doctor had not "sanctioned this liberty" and having reported it to the Board, the Orderly was requested to admonish him and warn him against any further offences. In the previous century he would most likely have been put into the Black Hole for [...]

#OnThisDay 1869: The (alleged) medicinal use of gin2019-01-16T09:57:03+00:00

Poor House Infirmary: a case of ‘scald head’


The Charitable Society had resolved to set up Belfast’s first hospital  at its inaugural meeting in 1752. The hospital formed part of the original Poor House complex which finally opened in 1774. A string of prominent physicians and surgeons served the destitute and ill in the hospital including Dr William Drennan (founder of the United Irishmen),  Dr. James McDonnell (heralded for his work on the resuscitation of drowning victims) and the Purdon family (who served as doctors in the Poor House from one generation to the next for over a century). Our Minute Books demonstrate that January was a particularly busy time for [...]

Poor House Infirmary: a case of ‘scald head’2019-01-09T10:56:18+00:00

Fleas in the Poor House


January 1809 witnessed a resurgence in an issue which had plagued the Poor House... the presence of fleas in the bedrooms! This had been an issue from the earliest days of the Poor House as in July 1775 David Hackett’s bed was recorded as being “overrun with vermin”. This was in a period before there was pest control as we know today and the Belfast Charitable Society were forced to employ the children in some rudimentary pest control to help alleviate the problem and stop the potential spread of disease. The Orderly, who examined conditions in the Poor House described how he “had [...]

Fleas in the Poor House2019-01-03T09:33:55+00:00
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