Henry Joy McCracken was born in 1767 and his sister Mary Ann in 1770, they were both raised in one of Belfast’s industrialist families. They lived in M’Kittrick’s Entry (Now Joy’s Entry). Captain John McCracken was their father, a shipowner, who was we’ll known in the city. The McCracken family made their wealth through the linen, cotton and other industries. Their Grandfather Francis Joy founded the renowned newspaper ‘The NewsLetter’, a paper which is still popular in Belfast today.


Henry Joy and Mary Ann grew up in a liberal and forward-thinking household for its time, John McCracken was considered a ‘cultured’ man. Having spent time as a prisoner in France, John quickly took to their way of living. On return he hired a private French native speaker as a tutor for his kids.

Due to their fathers forward thinking and admiration for the ethics and way in which David Moran taught, they both attended David Manson’s co-educational school. This school was progressive in its time, a school which had a major influence on them at a young age and as they grew older. The school emphasised amusement rather than punishment. They children were able at a young age help their father in his business, primarily working out sums. As the pupils grew older, they soon started to worry their elders by reading works by the likes of William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, and then Tom Paine.