Watchmaking and anti-slavery

Belfast produced not one but two abolitionist watch makers. Thomas McCabe was the first and the second was Robert Neill, on High Street from 1803.

Neill supplied watches, clocks, marine chronometers, optical equipment & jewellery. Some of the company’s oldest public clocks are still extant in Belfast.

Robert Neill lost his wife, Letitia Ireland, in 1845, and dedicated his remaining days to helping others. A particular passion was the abolition of slavery. As an influential member of the Belfast Anti-Slavery Society he hosted three of the greatest American abolitionists, in October 1846.

Neill died in 1857, so did not see abolition in the US. But he did play a modest role in bringing it about.

This delightful 18 carat gold pocket watch of 1839 by R. Neill and Sons, Belfast (below), is now on the Canadian market for $2,600.

If you want to hear more about how McCabe and Neil helped campaign against slavery in Belfast, book a place on the ANTI SLAVERY BELFAST TOUR!

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