Dr William Drennan was born in the manse of First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast, in May 1754 where his father was minister.
William then studied medicine in Glasgow and Edinburgh and briefly practised as a gynaecologist. He is credited with having been one of the earliest advocates of hand washing to prevent the spread of infection and inoculation against smallpox.
In the 1790s, Drennan became founder and active member of the Society of United Irishmen, a political group that campaigned for the complete emancipation of Catholics and equal representation for all in the Irish Parliament.
He was tried for sedition in 1794 but acquitted and this ended his involvement with the Society.
The United Irishmen eventually went on to plan and stage the unsuccessful 1798 Rebellion that saw around 30,000 people killed throughout Ireland.
Drennan was also a poet and literary man. He founded and edited the Belfast Magazine and wrote much poetry. He was the author of the “the Emerald Isle,” a phrase often adopted to represent Ireland.
He died in 1820.
His plaque was unveiled in June 2002.
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