Our Work

Launch of the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation

Post Primary Bursaries for North Belfast

Mary Ann McCracken Foundation University Bursaries

Republished: The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken

Mary Ann’s Belfast Map

Launch of the Mary Ann
McCracken Foundation

On Wednesday, 20 January 2021, the Belfast Charitable Society officially launched its Mary Ann McCracken Foundation,  the main objectives of which are to celebrate her life and build on her legacy.

The Society was delighted to have secured the BAFTA award-winning broadcaster and historian Professor David Olusoga as the key note speaker — straight from his ‘Talk with President Obama’. Professor Olusoga spoke on the ‘Legacies of Slavery’- a subject he has extensively researched, written and broadcasted on for many years.

The event was chaired by Belfast Charitable Society President, Sir Ronnie Weatherup, and attended by nearly 400 guests from Ireland and further afield.

The full recording of the event can be viewed here. 

The launch marked the start of a programme of work which embodies the ethos of Mary Ann herself. The Foundation will encourage and facilitate projects and conversations, which get to the heart of the causes she championed, in the 21st century. See the short video excerpt, recorded from the event, below.


Post Primary Bursaries
for North Belfast

The Mary Ann McCracken Foundation and Belfast Charitable Society have come together to offer a new bursary programme for post primary schools in North Belfast. The bursaries will be targeted at 16+ year olds who face financial barriers which may prevent them from continuing to AS / A-Level, further or higher education, employment or apprenticeship. The bursaries will be administered by each of the 12 post primary schools in the North Belfast area, and will support a minimum of 22 pupils.

Norma Sinte, Chair of the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation, explained “We often ask ourselves ‘what would Mary Ann do today’? Living to the ripe old age of 96 she was a fierce proponent of the poor of Belfast, fighting to ensure they had access to opportunities in education, training and apprenticeships. We believe these new bursaries, which will support young people to stay in school or progress into the right jobs, are exactly the kind of initiative Mary Ann McCracken would have supported if she were alive today.”

The schools receiving the bursaries will have the flexibility to use the funds in a number of ways to support those pupils who need it most, or would be disadvantaged due to financial barriers.

Speaking on behalf of the schools Mary Montgomery, Principal of Belfast Boys’ Model and Chair of North Belfast Area Learning Community, said, ‘We are delighted to be in receipt of these bursaries. Post COVID-19 we are increasingly aware of the financial pressures facing families, and this fund will be a huge help in breaking down some of those barriers to support our students. Whether that is to cover application fees for university, buy a new suit or travel fare for a job interview or to encourage young people to progress to AS or A-Levels, the fund offers us flexibility to tailor to individual needs’.

Belfast Charitable Society (BCS) is match funding this initiative and, through its philanthropic connections has also secured additional funding from Victoria Homes Trust. Paula Reynolds, CEO of BCS explained, ‘We are delighted to contribute to this bursary initiative, and will continue to use our close relationships with other funders to attract and grow this worthwhile and tangible programme so more young people from North Belfast can benefit’.


Mary Ann McCracken Foundation
University Bursaries

In 2021, the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation supported two PhD Scholarships with Ulster University. This was one of many initiatives to celebrate the legacy of Mary Ann McCracken, local philanthropist, social reformer and business woman. The Foundation set up in her name continues to support the causes that were close to her heart while she was alive, over 250 years ago.

The scholarships were opened to all PhD researchers (part-time and full-time) from all faculties, who were undertaking research aligned to the interests of Mary Ann, for example education, social justice, social policy, poverty, modern day slavery, human rights and welfare rights particularly of women and children.

Beverley Irving-Edwards and Emmet Donaghy were the first recipients of the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation Bursary. They both received financial support to cover their research-related expenses, and further enhance their academic study. Both research projects are very different, with one focused on women while the other on areas of disadvantage and social reform.

Republished: 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 woman 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.

Mary Ann’s
Belfast Map

Follow in the footsteps of Mary Ann McCracken through this newly published map that traces some of the buildings and locations associated with her and the wider Joy and McCracken families. From the historic heart of Belfast where Mary Ann grew up, to her philanthropic work with the Poor House and her final home in Donegall Pass were she died, this map will take you through Mary Ann’s Belfast. Hard copies are available from Clifton House or you can download a copy of the map here.