Robert Shipboy MacAdam Manuscript

Scope and Content

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.

Administrative / Biographical History

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: Publications included: An Introduction to the Irish Language (Belfast, 1835)

Sources:Sources:Dictionary of Ulster Biography, Kate Newmann (Belfast, 1993)Dictionary of Ulster Biography, Kate Newmann (Belfast, 1993) Robert Shipboy McAdam: His Life and Gaelic Proverb Collection, A.J. Hughes (Belfast, 1998)

Access Information

Open to consultation. Includes material in English and Irish.


Description compiled by Clare McVeigh (RASCAL Project), entered by Deirdre Wildy, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

See 'Calendar of Manuscripts Western and Oriental' for details (MS1/153). This calendar is available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Conditions Governing Use

subject to condition and copyright restrictions

Appraisal Information

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.

Custodial History

It is unclear how or when the collection came to be held by the Queen's University Library.



Related Material

Bryson and MacAdam Manuscripts Collection (Belfast Central Library)


Staidear ar fhocloir lamhscriofa Bearla-Gaelge Roibeaird S. Mhic Adaimh (A Study of Robert S. McAdam's manuscript English-Irish Dictionary), Colm Beckett (QUB Thesis, 1995)

Robert Shipboy McAdam: His Life and Gaelic Proverb Collection, A.J. Hughes (Belfast, 1998)