William Drennan

William Drennan was born in Belfast in 1754. He was one of 11 siblings, but only 3 survived infancy. Drennan studied at the University of Glasgow, a centre of the Scottish Enlightenment. He came to national attention through his publication of “Letters of Orellana,” supporting radical constitutional reform. In 1791, Drennan proposed a “benevolent conspiracy” for the “Rights of Man” and independence for Ireland. In 1793, he was arrested for sedition, but successfully defended himself at trial. Though Drennan did not write extensively about abolition, his friends, family and associates were all solid advocates for abolition. He later advocated for women’s suffrage and founded the Belfast Academical Institution. Drennan was also a poet, remembered for “When Erin First Rose,” and a doctor who advised hand washing and practiced cowpox injections to prevent smallpox. He died in 1820 and was buried in Clifton Street Cemetery.

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Drennan’s grave in Clifton Street Cemetery

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