Our History

The Earls of Donegall laid out six passes in Belfast from 1660 to 1700. One of these passes led through the dense Cromac Wood and was known as the Pass Loning. Later the name evolved and became Donegall Pass. The street names in the area still evoke memories of Cromac Wood, for example, Walnut Street, Elm Street and Pine Way.

In the 18th Century, Donegall Pass became the location of many of Belfast’s most exclusive residents, such as Cromac House and Cromac Lodge.  Many of Belfast’s noted citizens resided in the area, such as Alderman Gaffikin, Reverend Hugh Hanna, Erskine Mayne and Mrs Edgar Haines. As Belfast became industrialised, the woods were replaced by housing for the workers and the elite middle class moved out of central Belfast.

The Donegall family owned Belfast and much of its surroundings up until the middle of the 19th Century. By late-Victorian times, Donegall Pass was a district of well-paid artisans and small merchants.

 “The Pass has a respectable antiquity.” Colin Johnson Robb in his summary of the history of Donegall Pass in the 1991 community festival program.

By the 1960s, however, this once proud district was in rapid decline. To rehabilitate the area and accommodate the need for re-housing, the Housing Executive implemented a strategy of urban renewal.

Local People

The Boys’ Brigade was established in 1890 following the formation in December 1888 of the 1st Irish (1st Belfast) BB Company in the Charlotte Street Mission Hall of St. Mary Magdalene Parish Church in the Donegall Pass, Belfast under the leadership of Mr. William McVicker. 
 Mary Ann McCracken (1770-1866) was a prominent social reformer. She was the sister of Henry Joy McCracken, one of the founders of the Society for United Irishmen who was executed for his involvement in 1798. She worked tirelessly for a range of philanthropic causes such as the welfare of women and children, the abolition of slavery and political equality for women.