About Us

We are members of an AHRC-funded project entitled ‘Welfare and public health in Belfast and its region, 1800-1973’ which is based at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Through this website we hope to inform you about what we are doing as part of our work on poverty and welfare in Belfast, and bring together research and ideas from people working in this aspect of history, not just from the perspective of Belfast or Northern Ireland, but also from those engaged in work on all aspects of welfare and public health. We will look at these broad themes from an historical perspective, but we also want to hear from, and publish pieces by other scholars in the humanities and social sciences, as well as policy-makers and those who work for charitable organisations.

The team include;

Prof. Peter Gray (Principal Investigator)

Peter Gray took his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at the University of Cambridge before holding research fellowships at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s, and at Downing College, Cambridge. He taught Irish and British history at the University of Southampton 1996-2005, before returning to Belfast to take up the position of Professor of Modern Irish History. In 2004 Professor Gray was the Burns Library Visiting Professor in Irish Studies at Boston College, Massachusetts. He was chair of the Royal Irish Academy’s National Committee for Historical Sciences 2007-10, and became Head of the School of History and Anthropology in 2010. He was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2013. For more on Peter and his publications please click here

Dr Olwen Purdue (Co-investigator)

Olwen took up her current post in Queen’s University in September 2012 and is a former graduate of Queen’s University Belfast. On completing her doctorate she was appointed to a research post on the ESRC-funded project, ‘Welfare Regimes under the Irish Poor Law’, based jointly at Oxford Brookes and Queen’s, and subsequently as a Research Fellow in the Institute of Irish Studies also at Queen’s. Olwen is a committee-member of the Economic and Social History Society of Ireland and the Society for the Study of Nineteenth Century Ireland. She is co-investigator on the AHRC-funded project, ‘Welfare and public health in Belfast and the north of Ireland, c.1800-1973’. For more on Olwen and her publications please click here

Dr Georgina Laragy (Research Fellow/Project Manager)

Dr Georgina Laragy completed her BA in History and Geography and MA (Research) in History at NUI Maynooth. Her PhD, on ‘Suicide in Ireland, 1831-1921: a social and cultural history’, was funded by the IRCHSS and completed at NUIM in 2005. She has worked on research projects at Oxford Brookes University (ESRC-funded ‘Welfare Regimes under the Irish Poor Law, 1850-1921’) and the University of Limerick (IRCHSS-funded ‘From the cradle to the grave: lifecycles in modern Ireland’). On this project Georgina is looking at poverty and welfare broadly in Belfast between 1850-1939. Georgina moved to a post in Trinity College Dublin in 2015. For more on Georgina and her publications please click here.

Dr Sean Lucey (Research Fellow)

Sean Lucey completed his PhD at NUI Maynooth in 2008 in the area of late nineteenth century social, economic and agrarian history which has been published as Land, popular politics and agrarian violence in late nineteenth century Ireland: the case of county Kerry (University College Dublin Press, 2011). Since then he has worked at Oxford Brookes University and University College, Dublin. He also held an Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences Fellowship (two years) in the Centre for Contemporary Irish History in Trinity College Dublin. For the project he is looking at public health and welfare in Belfast and Northern Ireland, 1920-1973.

Robyn Atcheson (Ph.D. student)

Robyn completed her B.A. and M.A. at Queen’s University. Her Masters dissertation looked at the formation of the first Foreign Mission of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1840. Her PhD will investigate the dynamics of poverty in the developing town of Belfast and its surroundings between the Act of Union and the Famine.  It will consider various forms of poor relief through official systems and philanthropy as well as evaluating the medical relief available in this period.  My research interests lie in the social and religious history of Ireland and Britain in the nineteenth century with a particular emphasis on early nineteenth-century Ulster. I was co-organiser of the Irish History Students Association conference at QUB in March 2013.

3 thoughts on “About Us

  1. Pingback: Our Project | Poverty and Public Health in Belfast

  2. Dear Sirs
    I apologise because this is not in your remit but with your knowledge of the subject I wondered whether you might be able to give me some guidance on detecting a suicide in the 1840s.
    My great great great grandfather disappeared during the time between 1847 and 1869. We have an extremely strong family history of bipolar disorder for generations. There was at least one suicide in the 1800s. His son was particularly unwell. In my family research I found a relative who had been admitted to an asylum on several occasions.
    He is not buried with his family in Belfast or Saintfield and we have no death record. It has therefore crossed my mind that this may be a suicide although I do note the various plagues and general criminality.
    John Ellison lived with his family in 43/44 Hudson ‘s entry and was a white smith/ beam and lock maker. I have read that a clergyman described it as a den of iniquity with public houses ++ John had previously emigrated from a farm in Saintfield( Tullywasnacunagh).
    I am really just looking re advice on any other sources available.
    Dr Julie McKane
    P.s As a consultant psychiatrist, amateur geneaologist and historian I am very interested in your study and wish you well.

    • Dear Dr McKane,

      Sorry for the delay in replying.

      It is impossible to say whether or not you great great great grandfather committed suicide. There are no records of individual deaths registered until 1864 so without those it is impossible to conclude his cause of death. Suicides were registered so it would not be impossible to find out if he did afterwards, but you would need to locate the death certificate to be sure, and even then it may be concealed, as some suicides were.

      Also – do you mean that he disappeared between 1847 and 1869, and then re-appeared? If you think he died during this period you might be better to find out the local parish church and consult their burial records if they survive. Familysearch.org and other genealogy websites should help you discover if those relevant to your family survive for the period you are seeking. It is likely though they would not contain a ’cause of death’ as it was not a requirement for burial registers. Consider having a browse through the recent additions to the Census of Ireland website at the National Archives, which contains some entries for Antrim in 1851 http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1851/Antrim/

      Sorry I can’t be of more help but finding out details of deaths prior to 1864 is problematic.
      Good luck with the research.

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