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Notable Names from Belfast

Notable names in Belfast

From entertainment to politics, art to science, there’s plenty of famous historical figures that were born in Belfast.

When it comes to famous children’s books there’s few more popular than The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Its author Clive Staples (or CS as he preferred) Lewis was born in Belfast and his home, Little Lea, is now one of the listed buildings in the area.

CS Lewis was educated in England, at Malvern College and University College, Oxford, and after he graduated with high marks, he became fellow and tutor at Magdalen College. Later he moved to Cambridge as Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature. But in terms of his own writing, his most famous books are the Narnia stories, which were originally devised for World War II evacuees.

In later years he married the American author Joy Gresham who died of cancer. The film Shadowlands tells of their moving romance.

On the subject of films an Oscar nominated actor and director was also born in Belfast. Kenneth Charles Brannagh was born here in 1960 but left for England at the age of nine.

At 23 Kenneth joined the Royal Shakespeare Company where he starred in Romeo and Juliet and Henry V. He formed his own theatre company Renaissance that now counts Prince Charles as one of its royal patrons. His film credits include Hamlet, Peter’s Friends and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Poet Seamus Heaney was born in April 1939, the eldest of nine children. He grew up as a country boy on his father’s farm in County Derry. At the age of 12 he won a scholarship to St Columb’s College, a Catholic boarding school in the city of Derry. He then studied and lectured in English at Queen’s University, Belfast, and lived in the city from 1957 to 1972 before moving to the Republic of Ireland where he has since made his home.

One of today’s most popular poets, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and the following year, the French Ministry of Culture made him a Commandeur de L’Orde des Arts et Lettres.

Footballer George Best, born in Belfast in 1946, is considered by many to be the best player ever and was even named the “fifth Beatle” at the height of his international fame.

He was the leading scorer for Manchester United during 1967-68 and in 1968 won a European Cup Medal and the title of European Footballer of the Year, as well as Football Writers’ Player of the Year. He earned 37 international caps for Northern Ireland as well as two championship medals with United.

Mary McCracken was born on Belfast’s High Street in 1770 to John, a shop-owner and rope maker, and Ann, the daughter of Francis Joy, the founder of the Belfast Newsletter. Both parents were members of devout and influential Presbyterian families. She attended a school established in 1755 by the noted radical and progressive educationalist, Manson.

Mary was the close companion of her older brother, Henry Joy, and shared his radical political views and an interest in reviving the ancient music and poetry of Ireland. After his execution in 1798, she devoted herself to starting a muslin business at Waring Street, with her sister Margaret, and took on philanthropic causes especially for women and children. She took a particular interest in the Charitable Institution (the Belfast Poorhouse), and campaigned against slavery and poor working conditions. She worked to the end of her long life for the equality of women.


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