Healthy Lifestyle
Famous People - Belfast

  Famous Faces from Belfast

George Best

Football Legend
1946 - 2005

Famous People - George Bests

Arguably one of the greatest players the world has ever seen. George Best was born in East Belfast. At just 16 he signed for Manchester United and so began the making of a legend. His honours while playing for Manchester United included a famous European Cup victory in 1968.

Few people can bridge the divide that is so prevailent in Northern Ireland but the funeral of George Best saw a uniting of people coming together to say a fond farewell to the 'Belfast Boy'. Thousands of people lined the route from his family home in East Belfast to Stormont where a ceremony was televised to millions across the World.

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Kenneth Brannagh

Actor & Director
1960 - Present

Famous People - Kenneth Brannagh

The actor and director Kenneth Branagh was born into a working class family who lived at Downview Bungalows before moving to Mountcollyer Street. Kenneth wrote of life before the family moved to England: "Belfast seemed to be all about visiting your relatives. As my folks seemed to be related to one half of Belfast and to have been at school with the other half, visiting time was hectic... I sat listening to these grown-ups as they monitored life in the area- who was marrying who, leaving who, abusing who, moving house, moving country- all of this was discussed with continual reference to things in the past. Everything was liked to their fathers and uncles and aunts, and the daily gossip promoted flood's of stories". Branagh went on to the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art in London, and made his name in Graham Reid's TV dramas- the "Billy Plays". He has international reputation as both an actor and director, particularly for his stage and screen treatments of Shakespeare.

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Mary Ann McCracken


Famous People - Mary Anne McCracken

The philanthropist Mary Anne Mc Cracken was one of the most remarkable women Belfast has produced. Born into a Presbyterian business family, she and her sister set up a small- manufacturing enterprise. Mary Ann supported the United Irishmen, and after the 1798 rising helped her younger brother Henry Joy while he was in prison and on the run, then walked with him to his execution in High Street. She brought up his daughter Maria, born out of wedlock. An early advocate of women's emancipation, she wrote.

"Is it not almost time for the clouds of error and prejudice to disperse and that the female part of the creation as well as the male should throw off the fetters with which they have been so long mentally bound".

From 1827 to 1851 Mary Ann worked tirelessly for improved conditions in the Poor House, and was a lifelong campaigner against slavery. She died aged 96 and is buried in Clifton Street Cemetery.

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Henry Joy McCracken

Political Activist

Famous People - Henry Joy McCracken

Proud to belong to two important Belfast Presbyterian families, he always used his full name. His father, John McCracken, was an entrepreneur and associated with many of Belfast's leading philanthropic ventures; his maternal grandfather, Francis Joy, owned important paper mills and was the founder of The Belfast News-Letter. The Joys - of Huguenot descent - were also a public-spirited family.

Henry was early interested in radical politics and used his position as owner of a cotton mill to travel extensively, making political contacts; he was always concerned with the welfare and education of his workers. He became a United Irishman in 1795 and was arrested on suspicion the following year, spending fifteen months in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

When the insurrection broke out in June 1798, McCracken was made general of the forces mustered at Donegore, which then attacked Antrim town. They were defeated by government troops; after a month on the run McCracken was captured in Carrickfergus, and tried for treason and hanged in the Cornmarket, Belfast, on the same day: 17th July 1798. His sister Mary Ann (q.v.) had a doctor standing by in case there was still life in the body after it was cut down; but in vain. McCracken was buried at St George's, High Street, but the remains were later transferred to the Clifton Street cemetery.

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John Luke


Famous People - John Luke

The son of a boilerman, he worked in the shipyard and the York Street Flax Spinning Mill before wining a scholarship to the School of Art. He went on to the Slade School in London, where Tom Carr and F. E. McWilliam were his contemporaries. After exhibiting in London, he returned to Belfast in 1931. In 1938 he was commissioned to paint a frieze for the Ulster Pavilion in the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow. During the second world war he stopped painting for a time and retired to a cottage in Co. Armagh, earning his living by teaching art at Manor House school. From 1953 he lectured at Belfast College of Art.

In 1951, for the Festival of Britain, Luke painted a large mural representing the history of Belfast on the tympanum of the dome of the City Hall. It is in his characteristic, highly formalised style. There is another mural of his in the Masonic Hall, Rosemary Street, Belfast, and an oil The Old Callan Bridge in the County Museum, Armagh.

Luke spent his last years in relative poverty and solitude in a flat in Duncairn Gardens, and died in the Mater Hospital in 1975. The Arts Councils of Ireland mounted a comprehensive exhibition of his work the following year.

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Louis MacNeice

1907- 1963

Famous People - John Luke

McNeice was born in Belfast in 1907, the son of a Church of Ireland clergyman who later became a bishop. Educated in England (Marlborough and Oxford), he lectured in Classics in Birmingham and London; his verse translation of the Agamemnon of Aeschylus is of high literary quality. In 1941 he joined the BBC Features Department and was responsible for many classic productions, including his own radio play The Dark Tower (with music by Benjamin Britten). He was for a short period in the 1950's Director of the British Institute in Athens.

Along with Auden, Spender and Day Lewis, MacNeice formed the leading group of poets of the 1930's. His work is colloquial and ironic, but intellectually distinguished and informed by a real tragic sense. He casts an ironic eye on the politics of Ireland ("I was born in Belfast to the banging of Orange drums") but his love for the country always shines through. His most considerable work is Autumn Journal (1939), a meditation on Munich and the approach of war; but he is also the author of many notable short poems (e.g. The Sunlight In the Garden, Bagpipe Music).

MacNeice died in 1963 from viral pneumonia, reputedly caught while he was exploring a cave for a projected radio programme. He is buried at the C. of I. church, Carrowdore, Co Down. The poet is also associated with St Nicholas's Church, Carrickfergus, where his father was rector.

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Helen Waddell

Writer and Scholar
1889 - 1965

Famous People - Helen Waddell

Helen Waddell is best known for revealing to the modern reader the world of the medieval goliards (The Wandering Scholars, 1927), many of whose poems she translated in Medieval Latin Lyrics (1929). Her one novel, Peter Aberard (1933), is also set in that medieval world and enjoyed considerable success at the time. But her subject matter ranged wider than that; her first publication was Lyrics From The Chinese and she also wrote an authoritative - and readable - book on the anchorites of the Sinai desert (The Desert Fathers). She even tried her hand at plays; The Spoilt Buddha, first performed at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, is reputed to be a portrait of her brother Sam.

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Robert Lynd

1879- 1949

Famous People - John Luke

Born in Belfast and educated at R.B.A.I. and the then Queen's College, where he studied classics. He worked briefly for The Northern Whig before moving to Manchester and then to London as a free-lance journalist. In the capital he shared a flat with the artist Paul Henry (q.v.), with whom he had graduated.

Lynd became a staff writer for the Daily News (later the News Chronicle) and from 1912 to 1947 was its literary editor. He also wrote for the Nation, and - under the pseudonym of Y. Y. - contributed, from 1913 to 1945, a weekly literary essay to the New Statesman. In politics he was a socialist and adherent of Sinn Fein and the Gaelic League; he also edited some of the works of James Connolly.

He is remembered today for the remarkable sequence of essays he wrote over a period of more than forty years. They never fall below a high level of elegance and fluency, and while some are too self-consciously literary for today's taste, the best of them - such as The Herring Fleet, inspired by his memories of Ardglass - have become twentieth century classics.

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Sir John Lavery

1856 - 1941

Famous People - John Luke

Sir John Lavery was born in Belfast in 1856, but trained in Glasgow, London and Paris. He was apprenticed to a photographer in Glasgow, where his ambition was to become a portrait painter from the experience he gained retouching negatives and coloring photographs. He became a leading member of the Glasgow School, then a successful portraitist in London, and an official War artist. Lavery was in France only two or three years, leaving for Paris in 1881 where he studied in Colarossi's studio and at the Academie Julian. In 1883, he stayed at the artists' colony of Grez-sur-Loing, and became friendly with the older Irish artist Frank O'Meara and the French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage, both of whom influenced his work. Drawing rather than color was emphasized at Julian's, and Lavery worked in charcoal. Lavery's first French landscape, "Les Deux Pecheurs", was exhibited in 1883.

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Chaim Herzog

Israeli Prime Minister
1918 - 1997

Famous People - Chaim Herzog

Chaim was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where his father, Isaac Halevy Herzog, was a well-known rabbi. The family moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1935 and Isaac Herzog became Chief Rabbi in 1937. Chaim was educated in the Yishuv and then at Cambridge and London Universities, where he earned his law degree.

During World War II, he served as a tank commander in Britain's elite Guard Armoured Division, later becoming a director of British intelligence in Germany. In this capacity, he identified a captured soldier as Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler. After the war, he served in the Haganah, the Jewish underground which became the Israel Defense Forces in 1948.

During Israel's War of Independence Herzog was an officer in the battle for Latrun, and later headed military intelligence twice, from 1948-1950 and 1959-1962. He served as Israel's military attachй in Washington, 1950-1954; Commanding Officer of the Jerusalem district, 1954-1957; and Chief of Southern Command, 1957-1959.

When he retired from the IDF in 1962, Herzog headed an industrial investment company. On the eve of the Six Day War he became a radio commentator best known for his military and political analysis, especially during the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. His book about the 1973 war, "The War of Atonement", was published in 1975, the year he became Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations. During his tenure at the U.N. he denounced the infamous resolution equating Zionism as racism and defended Israel's rescue of Jewish hostages held by terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda, in July 1976.

In 1981 Chaim Herzog was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Labor party. His book, "The Arab-Israel Wars", was published in 1982. In 1983, he became Israel's president, a position to which he was re-elected to in 1988. Chaim Herzog died in 1997.

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Eamon Holmes

TV Presenter
1960 - Present

Famous People - Helen Waddell

Eamon was born in North Belfast and studied journalism there before beginning his broadcasting career at Ulster Television.

Initially a farming reporter, before moving on to sport and news, he became the youngest ever anchorman in the ITV regions hosting Ulster TV's hour-long evening show Good Evening Ulster, at the age of just 21. In 1986 he was one of the faces who launched daytime TV on BBC1, with the daily phone-in programme Open Air. During the late 80s and early 90s he hosted various shows for the BBC, including BBC1's daily series Garden Party (1988-89), and Holiday, which he co-presented for four years.

He also covered numerous national sports events for the station, and hosted Tyne Tees Television's issue-based sports discussion programme, A Seat in the Stand.

From 1986 to 1990 Eamonn was anchorman of BBC1's Open Air programme, before moving on to present sport on BBC's Breakfast News.

As one of TV's busiest presenters, he has presented numerous other programmes, ranging from The National Lottery to Songs of Praise. He is often in demand for his sports knowledge, hosting Champions League Football for digital viewers, and The Sports Show for Carlton TV.

Britain 's longest serving breakfast host, Eamon is a father of four. A passionate Manchester United fan, he divides his time between London, Belfast and Old Trafford.

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