Ronnie Adams Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of newspaper cuttings and photographs of Ronnie Adams (and others) taking part in various rallies. Also includes a copy of XXIV Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo scrapbook, 1954.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ronnie Adams was born in Northern Ireland on March 8 1916. He was educated at Wrekin College before joining the Belfast-based family linen company, William Adams, founded by his grandfather. Ronnie was a fine all-round sportsman, a crack rifle shot and good cricketer who missed the opportunity to shoot for his school at Bisley on account of his cricketing commitments.

Aged only 11, he was taught to drive by the family chauffeur and held a legal licence when he was 13. In 1934 he talked his father into buying a new MG sports car in which he entered hill-climb competitions; in 1936 he won the first Circuit of Ireland Rally, driving an Austin 16 Sports Saloon. From 1939, he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Ulster Horse, but was invalided out in 1943.

Resuming his motor sport career after the war, Adams drove Triumph, Sunbeam and Jaguar cars. He shared his Monte Carlo Rally win with co-driver Frank Biggar and their navigator/timekeeper Derek Johnston; it was a period when three-man crews were common (Adams described their duties as "driver, navigator and barman"). Although it had been a relatively snow-free "Monte", their Jaguar was the only car of more than 2.5-litre capacity to finish in the first 38.

Adams drove a Kieft sports car in the 1955 RAC Tourist Trophy at Dundrod, Ulster, in which three drivers were killed. He raced the big Jaguar at Silverstone, and took part in a series of East African Safari Rallies (staying on to shoot kudu), as well as in the Alpine Rally and - in 1962 - the famous Liege-Sofia-Liege Rally which the Belgian organisers hoped would be so tough that nobody would finish. Adams' international rallying career finally ended on medical advice, due to an irregular heartbeat.

He had meanwhile become managing director of William Adams on his father's death in the mid-1950s. He quickly recognised that the specialist fine linen and damask market offered little potential growth, and moved into man-made textiles.

Adams sailed competitively in Dragon class dinghies, and also took up classic car motor sport, driving MGA and Daimler Dart sports cars. In 1996 he and the Daimler survived a high-speed somersault on the Isle of Man, Adams sustaining a broken collarbone and cracked ribs. Only last January he demonstrated a 400-hp Porsche Turbo on the Kirkistown circuit in Northern Ireland, remarking that the 127 mph his passenger saw on the short straight was "the fastest I have ever driven".

He was twice married. With his first wife, Eileen, he had three sons and a daughter. Ronnie Adams died on Easter Monday 2004 aged 88.

Access Information

Open to researchers, by appointment. For further information, please see:

Conditions Governing Use

Please apply to the Archivist if you would like to make any copy of the material.