The year 1847 was a dark one in Irish history, known as Black ’47, due to the number of famine related deaths. It wasn’t just the labouring classes who were impacted – many doctors, minsters and priests died due to contracting various diseases which fell under the ubiquitous term of ‘famine fever’, when helping the poor. One such example was Dr James McCleery, surgeon to the male side of the Poor House for 12 years, who died on this day (10th July) 1847. He had contracted famine fever from his patients. Surgeon McCleery, as he was referred to in our minute books, was a native of Portaferry and opened a practise in North Street, Belfast. Surgeon James McCleery was subsequently interred in the family plot in Clifton Street Cemetery.

The position he left vacant was ultimately taken up by his son, another James, who at the age of 24 was appointed as surgeon to the male side of the Poor House. This followed a review of the testimonial of professional competency and moral worth which he submitted before the Belfast Charitable Society.

The father and son were relations of William McCleery, who married Maria, the illegitimate daughter of United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken