Joyce McCartan

Joyce McCartan nee Buchanan (26th November 1929 - 8th January 1996)

Joyce McCartan was born in Banbridge, County Down in 1929. In her book, she describes how her mother died when she was seven years old, which placed family responsibilities on her shoulders. At the age of 16, she decided to leave the family home and to come to live in Belfast, where she knew no one. However, she met and later married Seamas McCartan and they had children. They lived on McClure Street and later on the Ormeau Road. Joyce became involved in community politics, participating in opposition to increases in bus fares, rallying for the provision of school buses and protesting against the removal of school milk in 1981, by the then Education minister Margaret Thatcher.

In 1990, she helped form the Women’s Information Group and, working alongside Kate Kelly, Mary Leonard, Kathleen Feenan and others, helped to build bridges across the sectarian divide. She helped to run the women’s centre in the lower Ormeau Road and other community projects. In May 1987, Gary, her youngest son, was murdered in his home, by Loyalist paramilitaries. He was one of 17 members of the McCartan family that were killed.

In 1991, Joyce McCarten was named Irish Pensioner of the Year; in 1992, she was awarded the MBE, and in 1995, she was given an honorary doctorate from Queen's University, Belfast. In spite of all the honours she wanted to improve her own education and in 1995 she joined a BIFHE GCSE politics class in the Downtown Women’s Centre in Donegall Street. Sadly she died of cancer on the 8th January 1996.