Macartney (McCartney), ‘Black’ George (c.1630–1702), merchant, was a cousin of the McCartneys of Blacket in the parish of Urr, Scotland, and was probably born there. Like them he spelled his name ‘McCartney’, but the form ‘Macartney’ was adopted by his descendants and is usually applied to him retrospectively. He settled in Belfast in the 1650s and became a merchant stapler in 1656. He rapidly became very successful as a merchant and shipowner, and built a large house on the town quay. He became a burgess of Belfast in 1665 and served four terms as sovereign (mayor). In 1678–80 he was responsible, with Robert Leathes, another burgess, for piping the Belfast water supply. To distinguish him from his distant cousin George Macartney (qv) of Auchinleck, who was active in Belfast at the same date, he was known as ‘Black George’; this may have referred to his personal appearance or to his place of origin. Unlike his namesake, he played little part in local politics, although he was high sheriff of Co. Antrim in 1681.
In 1688 James II (qv) issued new charters to the Irish towns to gain control of the corporations which elected members of parliament. Macartney was named as one of the new burgesses who were expected to cooperate with the Jacobite government. Soon after, however, he was contributing supplies to the protestant Northern Association. He was still in Belfast on 14 March 1689 when he signed the town's letter of submission to the Jacobite commander after the rout of the northern forces at the Break of Dromore. He presumably left with his family soon afterwards when it became known that the defeated army had left on the battlefield letters and accounts identifying their supporters. He was subsequently named in the Jacobite act of attainder. In June 1689 he was in Lancashire, and he and Edward Harrison, his principal trading partner in London, were engaged in supplying the artillery train of the duke of Schomberg (qv). He returned to Belfast later in 1689 and was active in the town's affairs in the 1690s, serving his last term as sovereign in 1700–01. He was a member of the Church of Ireland, but in later years had become a presbyterian.
Macartney's importance lies in the fact that his long career as a merchant is extremely well documented and illustrates the trading patterns and practice of his period. He was able to build up capital by acting on commission for Dublin and London merchants, loading their ships with cargoes of provisions, and frequently taking a share in their ventures. He also traded on his own account, generally in partnership with other local merchants. He advised members of the local gentry on the packing of beef and butter for export, and was on particularly good terms with Sir George Rawdon (qv), who described him as ‘the only man to advise with in these parts both for honesty and ability to deal with’. Macartney let no opportunity slip to extend trade. In the late 1670s he extended his operations to Ballyshannon in Co. Donegal, employing a local merchant as his agent to buy salmon and provisions. In the 1680s he endeavoured to set up his elder son as his agent in Dublin. When this failed he helped his son-in-law and former apprentice, Francis Cromie, to settle there. Macartney's intelligent, flexible and opportunistic approach to trade meant that he was in the forefront of every new development. By the 1680s all his remittances were made by bills of exchange and he was probably the first Belfast merchant to deal in bills, acting on commission for a number of merchants and bankers in London and Dublin. He remained active in trade and bill dealing until his death in October 1702.
With his wife Martha (d. 21 November 1705), he had two sons and two daughters. His elder son, George (qv) (c.1660–1730), became a general in the British army. His younger son, Isaac Macartney (c.1670–1738), was a merchant and shipowner in Belfast. He was a presbyterian, and a burgess of Belfast 1701–7. He was extremely successful both in trade and bill dealing, and built the George and Hanover quays in Belfast at his own expense. He married Anne (d. 1748), daughter of William Haltridge, merchant of Dromore, with whom he had a numerous family, including William Macartney (c.1715–93), MP for Belfast. Isaac Macartney was eventually ruined by ‘inattention to business’ and by his involvement in the affairs of his brother-in-law, John Haltridge (c.1670–1725), MP for Killyleagh, Co. Down.