Monthly Archives: May 2022

From the Archive: Mary Ann McCracken & the Case of Ellen Murray


Ellen Murray first entered the Poor House as an 18 year old on 7th December 1816, as her mother was struggling to support her at home. Unusually for a person of her age Ellen was placed in Class Three during her time in the institution to improve her reading and writing abilities. However, this changed after nearly two years in the Poor House, when, on 31st October 1818,  the Committee decided that: “Ellen Murray… to assist in the Wash House and not to go anymore to School; nor to sleep with the other girls but in another part of the house”. [...]

From the Archive: Mary Ann McCracken & the Case of Ellen Murray2022-05-30T08:23:21+00:00

On This Day 1754: Dr William Drennan- Physician, Poet & Patriot – was born


On 23 May 1754 Anne Drennan née Lennox gave birth to her youngest son, William Drennan. Anne was the wife of the Rev Thomas Drennan, minister of the First Presbyterian Church, Belfast, and William was born in its manse. William Drennan would grow up to become a renowned physician, poet and patriot. Due to the Penal Codes limiting access to third level education in Ireland, many Presbyterian ‘sons of the manse’, such as William, attended university in Scotland. He studied arts in Glasgow (1772) and completed his medical studies in Edinburgh (1778). Dr Drennan was heavily influenced by enlightenment ideas and [...]

On This Day 1754: Dr William Drennan- Physician, Poet & Patriot – was born2022-05-17T14:12:08+00:00

The spark that started Belfast’s Industrial expansion


Belfast was once famous the world over for its linen production, but this was not the first textile to be industrialised in Belfast. Robert Joy was a paper producer and proprietor of the Belfast Newsletter, as well as the designer and project manager of the Poor House. Robert Joy, his brother-in-law Captain John McCracken and Thomas McCabe, all of whom sat on the Poor House Board, set out to discover the next ‘big thing’ in manufacturing. Although generous individuals, they were merchants and set sail to Britain to investigate the developing industries there. On their travels they discovered pioneering cotton spinning [...]

The spark that started Belfast’s Industrial expansion2022-05-17T12:02:37+00:00

National Numeracy Day: Mary Ann McCracken and her gift for numbers


Today marks National Numeracy Day and who better to highlight than the remarkable Mary Ann McCracken! Throughout her life she was an ardent educationalist, inspired by her childhood teacher, David Manson. David Manson was born at Cairn Castle on the Antrim Coast and settled in Belfast in 1752, the same year that Belfast Charitable Society was founded. He’d been sick as a child and was schooled by his mother, who based his learning around ‘play’, and not as was the wisdom of the time ‘discipline and punishment’. He developed a love of learning from his mother and experimented with his own [...]

National Numeracy Day: Mary Ann McCracken and her gift for numbers2022-05-17T11:59:55+00:00

Children of the Poor House: Transportation


This week we are taking a thematic approach to our Children of the Poor House series by looking at one of the more unusual reasons that led to some of the children being admitted to the Poor House. Transportation was a common form of punishment in the past, particularly for the crime of theft. The first ships to 'transport' convicted criminals to Australia from Britain occurred in 1787. By 1868 it is estimated that some 162,000 people had been transported. The Poor House records illustrate the impact that having a parent transported could have on a family, with many seeing the [...]

Children of the Poor House: Transportation2022-05-16T15:23:54+00:00

Children of the Poor House: Mary Lawn & Mount Stewart


Mary Lawn was born c.1824 during a time of massive growth in Belfast, both in terms of population and industry. The population of Belfast had grown by approximately 16,000 in the decade before she entered the Poor House! Her father was employed as a bricklayer but tragically lost his life on the job following a fall from a chimney. Mary subsequently entered the Poor House in June 1830, following her father's early death. Mary followed the path of many children who, once they had been given a new set of clothes and assigned a room, were given a well rounded education [...]

Children of the Poor House: Mary Lawn & Mount Stewart2022-05-10T15:19:40+00:00

Children of the Poor House: The Gilroy Brothers & the Belfast News Letter


Peppered throughout our records are groups of siblings who entered the Poor House due to changing circumstances at home. One such set of siblings were William Gilroy (aged 11) and his older brother, James (aged 12) who entered our walls within a week of each other in October 1850. William and James were the children of James Gilroy Senior and his wife, Isabella. The Gilroy family were of the Anglican faith, as recorded in our admission book. What is particularly unusual about the Gilroy brothers is the fact that after living in the Poor House for just over four years, the [...]

Children of the Poor House: The Gilroy Brothers & the Belfast News Letter2022-05-04T15:30:14+00:00
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