Distinguished and respected Irish historian, Professor Marianne Elliott, officially launched a new version of ‘The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken – A Belfast Panorama’ at Clifton House this week.
The book, first published by its author, Mary McNeill in 1960, has been republished as part of a number of events to celebrate Mary Ann McCracken’s 250th birthday.
Professor Marianne Elliott, who was brought up in Belfast, educated at Queen’s and Oxford, has written extensively on Irish history and agreed to write the foreword, she said,
“I was delighted to be asked to write the foreword for this republication. It is a biography by one remarkable Belfast woman about another. Both, Mary McNeill and Mary Ann McCracken set an example to many and I’m delighted to see the Belfast Charitable Society through the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation maintain that mission in affecting social need today.
“Mary Ann’s drive for social justice during her time was exceptional. From the Poor House to educating and securing apprenticeships for hundreds of children and women as well as offering employment to many in her own muslin business giving succour to those in need during those days.
“Her work to abolish the use of climbing boys in chimney sweeping; her involvement in the early women suffrage campaigns, prison reform schemes and anti-slavery circles has allowed us to live in a much more freer society today. Belfast and indeed society owe her a lot of gratitude.”
Belfast Charitable Society President, Sir Ronnie Weatherup, explains;
“This republication is the first major piece of work undertaken by the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation, set up by Belfast Charitable Society to celebrate the life and works of this remarkable woman, her legacy and relevance today.
“Thank you to Professor Elliott for her very knowledgeable and kind contribution. We are also very thankful to the family of Mary McNeill, who themselves have had a long history with our organisation and have given us permission to republish.
“Both Mary Ann McCracken and Mary McNeill, her biographer, were tireless activists for children and the disadvantaged throughout their respective lives. The Belfast Charitable Society is proud to recognise these two important women in its history through this republication.”
Professor Marianne Elliott concluded;
“The real strength of Mary McNeill’s book is that it allows Mary Ann to speak for herself through her extensive correspondence. Those letters provide a remarkable insight into a very special period in Belfast’s history and she lived long enough to pass them on to the nineteenth-century historian of the United Irishmen, R.R. Madden, and through him in to the archives of Trinity College Dublin.
“They were a fundamental part of my own research into the 1790s, much as they have been to successive generations of historians. There is something very symbolic in the Belfast Charitable Society reproducing this impressive book in its 267th anniversary year, for it has continued unbroken that philanthropic mission of the Joys, the McCrackens and the other Belfast reformers of the eighteenth century.”
Copies of the revised edition of The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken (1770-1866): A Belfast Panorama are available to purchase at Clifton House and all good bookshops.