Hunter, Mercy (1910–89), artist, was born 22 January 1910 in Belfast and christened Martha Saie Kathleen, one of the youngest of four daughters of the Rev. William Hunter, presbyterian minister; there was also at least one son. His wife was a Russian woman, Alice Beyer; on the day that they were married in Belfast, they set out for China as missionaries. At the age of four, Mercy, as she was always known, made the long and difficult journey with her family to Manchuria. She grew up there, but was sent to secondary school in Toronto, Canada, and in Belfast Royal Academy. Her parents experienced considerable difficulties and danger in Manchuria during two wars and the Boxer rising, but they stayed till 1928, and one of her sisters joined them there as a missionary doctor. Mercy Hunter studied at Belfast College of Art (1927–9) and won a scholarship to the London Royal College of Art, where she met other Ulster artists, notably George MacCann (qv), whom she married in 1938. It is not known if they had any children. As an art teacher in several Northern Ireland grammar schools, she was a cosmopolitan role model for generations of students; she was head of art at Victoria College, Belfast, from 1947 till retirement in 1970, and was awarded the MBE in that year. Hunter was known for her calligraphy, illuminated addresses, and a few illustrated books; she also produced many costume designs for the local theatres and for the ballet company of Patricia Mulholland. She was an academician of the Royal Ulster Academy and its president 1975–7, and was awarded an hon. MA (QUB) in 1975. She was a founder member of the Ulster Society of Women Artists; for the Ulster public, as a result of her many lectures and broadcasts, she was probably the best-known local woman artist of her day. She died in hospital in Dungannon on 20 July 1989. Her brother John Frederick Hunter (1893–1951) was the first inspector of art for Northern Ireland, and considerably influenced teaching methods and standards in schools; he was also a competent landscape painter and wood engraver. He served in both world wars, attaining the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and had an important role in a number of committees and institutions dealing with the arts. He married Maye Rogers and had three sons and a daughter. He was awarded the OBE (1951), and died 23 October 1951.
Belfast News Letter, 7 June 1929; Who's who in art (7th ed., 1954) on John Hunter; Theo Snoddy, ‘The quality of Mercy . . .’, News Letter, 31 July 1989; Snoddy (2002 ed.) (on Mercy and John Hunter and on George McCann)