Captain John McCracken was enchanted by all things French. He spent considerable time back and forward from Bordeaux, transporting wine for his employer, the Black family. He had been held prisoner in France in the mid 1700s, but it did not diminish his admiration for the French people. When French prisoners were quartered in Belfast, Captain McCracken. Robert Joy and other prominent businessmen of the town suggested to the government in London that a committee of townspeople should be appointed to look after the welfare of the prisoners. John also sought the services of an old weaver to teach his children French. She was the only native speaker in all of Belfast and she was hired to teach the Mary Ann, Henry Joy and the rest of the McCracken children the intricacies of the French language.
The French Revolution in the name of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, resonated with many in Belfast. An article published in the Northern Whig called, “The French Revolution as one of the most important and universally interesting events which the world ever saw…” There were parties and celebrations in Belfast on the day of commemoration with a banquet for 354 in the White Linen Hall. Indeed many point to the French Revolution as the flame which ignited the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland.