Joy, Francis (1697–1790), notary, printer, paper manufacturer, and founder of the Belfast News Letter, was born in 1697 at Killead, Co. Antrim, the younger son of Richard Joy, a prosperous presbyterian farmer, and his wife Jane (née Ellis) of Carrickfergus. He settled in Belfast as a conveyancer and notary, married (at 24) Margaret Martin, granddaughter of a provost of the town, and prospered further. On 1 September 1737, having acquired fortuitously a printing-press in Bridge St., he brought out the first number of the Belfast News Letter, which, the first newspaper to be published in Ulster, became the oldest surviving newspaper in Europe. Because of difficulties in the supply of paper from France, Joy and two other Belfast printers took over a paper mill at Ballymena (1739) and two mills at Ballygrooby (1740).
About 1745 he left Belfast for Randalstown (near his place of birth) and opened a larger mill, soon perfecting the manufacture of printing and writing paper from flax waste. For this purpose he twice petitioned the Irish parliament for aid (1747, 1749), having erected paper engines (‘Hollander’ machines for beating linen rags and refining the pulp) at Randalstown and Ballymena. He advertised himself as making and selling ‘good writing paper and printing paper’ as well as ‘white and blue paper for lapping linen cloth and also several kinds of brown paper’ (Belfast News Letter, 1 Jan. 1754). Joy had other interests in linen being the owner of a flax mill, a bleaching mill and green, and a tuck mill. By 1778 he had been joined in paper-making by William Jackson, who married Frances Joy, the daughter of his second marriage, to Ann Morrison (1745).
When Joy left Belfast his elder son, Henry (1720?–89), took over his notary's office and with his younger son, Robert (1722–85), was responsible for editing and printing the twice-weekly Belfast News Letter. The brothers also printed books. In 1767 they acquired a site at Cromac on the outskirts of Belfast on which a new paper mill was built. When settlers in the British colonies in North America rebelled against British rule (1775), the Joys’ newspaper supported them.
Francis Joy died 10 June 1790, three weeks after travelling to Belfast to vote for the successful independent candidates, John O'Neill (qv) and Hercules Rowley, in a hard-fought parliamentary election for the county. The paper mill continued in operation until 1815 when Mrs Jackson put it up for sale or let. With his first wife he had a daughter, Ann (1730–1814), who married John McCracken (1721?–1805), a sea captain, and was mother of Henry Joy McCracken (qv) and Mary Ann McCracken (qv).