It was on 8th July 1798 Henry Joy McCracken was recognised by Carrickfergus Yeoman and arrested for his part in the 1798 Rebellion. He had been on his way to a ship at Carrickfergus which was going to take him to a new life in America, but it was not to be. When his sister, Mary-Anne and his father, Captain John McCracken were notified of his arrest, they immediately set off to see him. Despite contact being made with many high ranking officials within the military to appeal for leniency, Henry Joy was brought to Belfast on the afternoon of 16th July. The sisters, Mary-Anne and Margaret went to see their brother in Castle Place. He was surrounded by soldiers and they were unable to speak to him.
The court-martial was set for 17th July at noon at the Exchange Rooms in Belfast. His sister Mary-Ann and his father were the only two members of his family present. Captain McCracken was taken aside by the chief prosecutor and was told that his son’s life could be spared if he was give information on others involved in the uprising. However, Captain McCracken knew his son would never give the names of those involved. Nothing could be done to save the life of Henry Joy McCracken. Despite repeated requests from his family to a variety of people in power in Belfast, if he was not prepared to give the names of his co-conspirators, he was destined to hang.
He was taken at 5.00pm to the gallows erected at the front of the Market House. The street was full of people, out to see this public event. He was hanged and in a last ditch attempt to save his life, Mary-Anne had his body cut down and brought to the family home, where she hoped a Dr McDonnell, who had studied artificial respiration, would be able to revive her beloved brother. However, this was not to be the case. The doctor sent his brother, a skillful surgeon, but with no experience in resuscitation. Henry Joy McCracken was dead, but his memory would live on for his family and followers for many years to come.