Happy Independence Day to all our American followers! We thought it was an appripriate day to share the tale of John Paul Jones, who, on 13th April 1778 brought the American Revolution to our shores!
John Paul Jones, a Scots-American, sailed his privateer, the Ranger, into Belfast Lough. He attacked, and captured the British warship HMS Drake and made off with its cargo.
He described the scene: “The sun was now a little more than an hour from setting, it was therefore time to begin…The action was warm, close and obstinate; it lasted for an hour and five minutes when the enemy called for quarters.”
The British surrendered with 40 men dead, while only two Americans were killed. Fears for the safety of the town increased. If the Americans could do this, then so could the French. The merchants of Belfast looked to Dublin for assistance but were told the government could spare only 60 troops for the protection of Belfast. The sovereign of Belfast was meeting with the Belfast Charitable Society in Clifton House and it was said he witnessed the unfolding events from the windows of the Poor House.
Robert Joy, designer of the Poor House, inaugurated the 1st Belfast Volunteer Company as a band of citizens to protect Belfast and there began the Volunteer Movement which spread across Ireland.
The 1st Belfast Volunteers paraded in Belfast wearing Irish made uniforms to support home industries at the time. One of the early recruits was the eldest McCracken sibling, Francis, brother of Mary Ann and Henry Joy McCracken. The Volunteers billeted in the Poor House during exercises in Belfast and used our front lawns for drilling.