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John Mattear (1726/7-1806): A Philanthropic Physician

By |February 15th, 2019|

John Mattear, brother of Samuel McTier who married Martha Drennan, was a pioneer of medical care for the poor and destitute of Belfast. Mattear studied medicine in Glasgow and Edinburgh in the 1740s. He returned to Belfast and was the first visiting physician to be appointed to the Belfast Poor House.

The infirmary at the Poor […]

Patriot, Poet & Physician: Dr William Drennan M.A. M.D.

By |February 5th, 2019|

Dr William Drennan was the youngest son of Rev Thomas Drennan, minister of the First Presbyterian Church Belfast, and Anne Lennox. During this period Presbyterians were impacted by the Penal Codes, and as such many ‘sons of the manse’ attended university in Scotland. William Drennan studied arts in Glasgow (1772) and completed his medical studies […]

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

By |January 22nd, 2019|

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 […]

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

By |January 21st, 2019|

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 […]

#OnThisDay 1807: The Water Rate Collectors

By |January 17th, 2019|

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 […]

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

By |January 16th, 2019|

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 […]

Poor House Infirmary: a case of ‘scald head’

By |January 9th, 2019|

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 […]

Fleas in the Poor House

By |January 3rd, 2019|

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 […]

From RBAI (Inst) to Clifton Street Cemetery: Burying the remains of dissected cavaders

By |December 31st, 2018|

As 1834 came to a close the final Poor House board meeting of the year was held on New Years Eve. At this meeting, the Board Members resolved to give a grave in the Pauper’s Ground to Dr Drummond, one of the visiting Physicians to the Poor House.

However, this was no ordinary grave. With the […]

136th Benn Christmas Dinner: the brothers behind the name

By |December 19th, 2018|

Today, 19th December 2018, marks the 136th annual Benn Christmas Dinner. But who were the Benn family and what was their association with the Belfast Charitable Society?

Edward (1798-1874) and George Benn (1801-1882), like many who supported the Belfast Poor House combined their keen business sense with a philanthropic spirit. The brothers originally came from Tandragee, […]