Henry Joy McCracken was – like most of his family – a textiles manufacturer by profession. He ought to have succeeded, specialising in cotton, but his radical political outlook led to his neglect of his business, and Joy, Holmes & McCracken went to the wall.
This happened in 1795, the year he was sworn into the Society of United Irishmen. Till then open and constitutional, it was about to become secret and clandestine, military and revolutionary. In June of that year he, along with Wolfe Tone, Samuel Neilson, Robert Simms and Thomas Russell climbed Cave Hill above Belfast and at McArt’s Fort they vowed not to desist in their efforts until they had subverted the authority of England and asserted Ireland’s independence.
McCracken was entrusted with the task of taking the Defenders, a secret Catholic agrarian society into the United Irishmen movement. His business interests provided the perfect cover, in travelling around the country, for his clandestine interests and by summer 1796 he believed he had brought about union between these two forces. Since we know that later, when the United Irishmen rose in rebellion, there was no sign of the supposedly 7000 strong Defenders, we must conclude that Henry Joy was deluded in his belief.
… more later …