Mary Ann McCracken 250 Calendar of Events

To celebrate 250 years since the birth of the social reformer, activist and abolitionist Mary Ann McCracken, a series of events will be held across the city this June and July. For more information about these events, click on the calendar below.


The Mary Ann McCracken Foundation

The Mary Ann McCracken Foundation was set up by Belfast Charitable Society (BCS) to celebrate Mary Ann’s life and to build on her legacy today. As a Belfast-born social reformer and activitist, Mary Ann McCracken made a huge contribution to life in Belfast, and beyond, including the Poor House, today known as Clifton House.

The Foundation has two main objectives:

• To advance education of the public about the life and works of Mary Ann McCracken, a leading social reformer and philanthropist.

• In the spirit of the legacy and work of Mary Ann McCracken; to advance education, to prevent or relieve poverty, to advance human rights and promote equality.

Meet Our Board

Mrs Norma SinteChairperson
Norma recently retired from Queen’s University Belfast where she was Director of Development and Alumni Relations. She joined Queen’s in 2000 as Head of Corporate and Major Gifts Fundraising and was appointed to the post of Director in 2008. During her time there she led two major fundraising campaigns, raising over £160m from philanthropic sources for priority projects.

A graduate of Queen’s, she has many years experience in sales and marketing management in the private sector both in the UK and Europe and in arts marketing and fundraising. In her role at Queen’s she also managed two senior voluntary Boards: the Queen’s Foundation and the Friends of Queen’s USA. Norma wants to help the Society retain its innovative and entrepreneurial outlook and build on its philanthropic heritage.

Una MaCauleyBoard Member
Una recently retired from Co Director of Older Peoples Service at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. She has many years experience in the provision and management of services for vulnerable client groups as well as managing a large multidisciplinary workforce. Una also a Trustee on the Board’s of Extra Care and Age NI.
Una was familiar with the work of the Belfast Charitable Society when she was employed by the Belfast Trust and considered it to be one of the leading local organisations providing care for older people . She decided to join the board of the Belfast Charitable Society given its long association with the care of the elderly and the Society’s unique historical heritage in the city.  
Mr Colin GrahamBoard Member
Colin is a documentary Film maker, the Chair of Digital Art Studios Belfast and a Main Board Director of GRAHAM Holdings Ltd.
Colin became involved with the Belfast Charitable Society to help the Society protect its philanthropic heritage and to ensure it remained relevant in today’s difficult social and economic environment. He also wanted to help and encourage a new era of philanthropic generosity.  
Ms Angila Chada
Board Member
Currently Executive Director of Springboard, Angila has extensive experience of working across and within communities in developing capacity, building peace and promoting an appreciation of diversity. Since 1992 she has led the creation of innovative and dynamic local and learning platforms, particularly for young people, which have resulted in exceptional personal outcomes as well as an increased sense of civic responsibility. In 2008 she created the Peace Day campaign to raise awareness of UN International Day of Peace and underline the importance of remembrance & celebration in the journey towards peace. In 2011 Angila established the Raj Darshna Foundation which underlines her personal long-term commitment to charitable giving and in 2013 she became a Beacon Fellow following her award as a Philanthropy Advocate. Previously she served on the Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Partnership, on the Board of Terra Nova Productions, an intercultural theatre company. She also served as a Charity Commissioner with the Charity Commission for N Ireland and School Governor for Belfast Royal Academy.

Who was Mary Ann McCracken?

Mary Ann McCracken was born in Belfast on 8 July 1770 to Captain John McCraken and Ann Joy. Mary Ann  had close family links to Belfast Charitable Society. Her uncle, Henry Joy, raised the money to construct the Poor House  and his brother, Robert, was responsible for managing the construction works. Her father also served on the Board.

Mary Ann McCracken was an abolitionist, social reformer and activist who fought for the rights of women and championed Belfast’s poor throughout a long life that encompassed the most turbulent years of Irish history. However, her legacy is overshadowed by her brother, Henry Joy McCracken – the executed United Irishman – despite outliving him by 68 years.

Through the Poor House Ladies Committee, she helped educate the children and secure apprenticeships that would provide them with livelihoods. Mary Ann was President of the Ladies Industrial School and campaigned to abolish the use of climbing boys in chimney sweeping. She was involved in early women’s suffrage campaigns and prison reform schemes. Mary Ann was also a life-long abolitionist founding the Belfast Women’s Anti-Slavery League. In her late eighties, she could still be found on the docks, handing out anti-slavery leaflets to emigrants embarking for the slave-owning United States.

The motto of this remarkable woman, which accurately sums up her character, was it is ‘better to wear out than to rust out’. But her radical, humanitarian zeal and generous strength of character were indefatigable, and her contribution to Belfast life is still felt and celebrated today.

Re-Published: The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken

The first major piece of work of the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation was republishing a revised edition of Mary Ann’s biography, The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken, 1770-1866, A Belfast Panorama (2019) by Mary McNeill. The Foundation believed the 250th anniversary of her birth was the right time to bring the story of this remarkable women to a wider audience. Author Mary McNeill was also a member of Belfast Charitable Society, and therefore this revised edition recognises both these women and their pivotal roles in the Belfast of their day.

The revised new edition (2019) of the classic biography of Mary Ann McCracken is available to purchase from Clifton House, home of the Belfast Charitable Society or online via Amazon.