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Blue plaque unveiled to regional daily’s founder

A blue plaque has been unveiled in memory of the founder of a regional daily newspaper which started publication 275 years ago.

Belfast’s News Letter was founded in September 1737 by Francis Joy, who was born in 1697, and a plaque has now been sited on a street in the city which is named after him, Joy’s Entry.

The street was where the newspaper was first printed and already has a blue plaque in place to Francis’ grandson, Henry Joy McCracken, a Presbyterian who was hanged as a united Irishman in 1798.

The unveiling of the plaque by the Ulster History Circle coincides with the 275th anniversary of the News Letter, which was celebrated by the Johnston Press title in September.

An event to mark the unveiling was attended by three former editors Darwin Templeton, Austin Hunter and John Trew, JP’s Northern Ireland managing director Jean Long and former First Minister Lord Bannside.

Current editor Rankin Armstrong said: “Francis Joy was indeed an innovator, a pioneer, and an inspirational figure, who used the printing methods of 275 years ago to make an indelible impression on the pages of history.

“The paper he founded in 1737 has gone on to achieve the incredible feat of being the oldest, continuously published English language daily newspaper in the world.”

Chris Spurr, chair of the Ulster History Circle, said: “When he published Belfast’s first newspaper, the News-Letter, Francis Joy ensured his place in history.

“That the date of this event is 1737 is remarkable, as is Joy’s long life, stretching almost the full length of the 18th century.”