MacAdam Manuscript Queen's University Belfast




Extant manuscript for an English-Irish Dictionary of Ulster Irish compiled for and in association with the Belfast born industrialist and Gaelic Scholar, Robert Shipboy MacAdam (1808-95). The manuscript consists of some 23 folios arranged alphabetically and containing the completed results of MacAdam's attempts to compile an English-Irish Dictionary in collaboration with the native Irish speaker, Hugh MacDonnell of Co. Meath. The completed work contains approximately 1,145 pages which have been tabulated into 4 columns to record the various entries. All but Letter F and the beginning of Letter G are to be found. A traditional gaelic script is also used throughout. The manuscript itself has been assessed to date from 1842-56.


The strength of this manuscript lies in the importance of the document as an original piece of unpublished work. It is indicative of the efforts of Irish men in the late 18th and 19th centuries to cultivate and propagate an interest in the Irish culture, and, in this case, the survival of the Irish language in particular. Described at one time as the "defender of the old Irish tongue," Robert Shipboy MacAdam was an influential figure in this regard. This manuscript would be of interest to students of Celtic and/or Irish Studies, the Gaelic Language and lexicography in general.

Physical Characteristics

The collection consists of 23 folios containing approx. 1145 pages (11.5 x 14.5 inches)



Collection Type



Policy: Closed   Method: Donation;   Periodicity: Closed


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Legal Status

Queen's University Belast has legal ownership of the material i nthis collection. The usual terms and conditions apply with regard to rights management.

Description or Catalogue

See Miscellaneous Manuscripts MS1/153:

Manuscripts webpage

Publications Note

MS Collection



MacAdam, Robert Shipboy (1808-1895)


Private Collector


Robert Shipboy MacAdam Industrialist, Antiquarian and Gaelic Scholar. b. Belfast, 1808. Ed. Belfast Royal Academical Institution. Established the Soho Foundry in Belfast as a young man with his brother James in 1832, patenting a design for a steam turbine and trading as far away as Egypt. In 1830 formed the Ulster Gaelic Society, the first such language revival organisation in Ireland. Was particularly interested in this area being fluent in 13 languages and in encouraging the study of the Irish Language. Collected native songs, proverbs, stories and Irish manuscripts while travelling around Ireland on business. Compiled an English-Irish Dictionary around this time. Member of the Belfast Literary Society (President, 1846-47; 1856-57), the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society (Vice-President, 1851-56; 1871-73; 1881-86), the Linen Hall Library and the Harmonic and Harp Societies. Also played a founding role in the establishment of the Belfast Museum and, in 1853, the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, which he also edited and financed for 9 years. d. 1895 Publications included: An Introduction to the Irish Language (Belfast, 1835) Sources: Dictionary of Ulster Biography, Kate Newmann (Belfast, 1993) Robert Shipboy McAdam: His Life and Gaelic Proverb Collection, A.J. Hughes (Belfast, 1998)



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Academic Institution





Queen's University Belfast was formerly established as 'Queen's College, Belfast' by Queen Victoria in 1845 as one of a network of three Queen's Colleges in Ireland alongside Cork and Galway. It was raised to the status of a full university in 1908 with its own Charter and Statutes. When Queen's College first opened its doors in 1849, there were 20 professors and 90 matriculated students all based in the main Lanyon building off University Road, Belfast. Since then, the University has grown considerably both in reputation and stature reflecting its status as one of the oldest universities in the UK. Now catering to some 1,300 academics and 17,000 full and part-time students, the University offers courses and research opportunities in Agriculture & Food Science, Arts, Economics & Social Sciences, Medicine & Health Sciences, Science, Engineering, Education, Law and Theology based in centres within several miles of the original site, as well as a Marine Laboratory at Portaferry, a campus at Armagh City and outreach centres in Omagh and Newcastle and a nursing campus at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry. Notable persons to have come through Queen’s doors include Seamus Heaney, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland and senior officer at Queen's, David Trimble, a former member of teaching staff and a joint recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace and actor Liam Neeson.