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Margaret Byers (1832 - 1912):
Educationalist and school headmistress


Margaret Byers

Margaret Byers was born in Rathfriland, County Down, and was educated in Nottingham where she became a teacher. Her headmistress, whose maxim was, 'Women can do anything under God', is said to have had a profound influence on her. She married in 1852, and she and her husband left for China as missionaries. She showed great courage and fortitude when, barely twenty years old, she had to look after a new-born infant and her ailing husband, who died eight days before their ship reached New York.

When she returned to Ireland, she taught in the Ladies' Collegiate School in Cookstown, County Tyrone, before establishing her own school, Victoria College, in Belfast. Originally at Lower Crescent, near Queen's College, the College is now situated at thesuburban site of Cranmore Prk in the southern suburbs. Margaret Byers was a teacher, a businesswoman, a pioneer of higher education for girls, a philanthropist and a suffragist. She said: 'My aim was to provide for girls an education...as thorough as that which is afforded to boys in the schools of the highest order.'

In 1905 she was given an honorary degree by Trinity College, Dublin and in 1908 Queen's University, Belfast, appointed her to its Senate. She was burieed in the City Cemetery in Belfast. The original Victoria College building later became an Arts Centre and bears a commemorative Ulster History Circle Blue Plaque dedicated to her. 



Born: April 1832
Died: 21 February 1912
Kate Newmann