Skip to Content

MacAdam Manuscript MS 1/153

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The strength of this manuscript lies in the importance of the document as an original piece of unpublished work.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 Dates



History, Literature

Geographic Coverage



Irish, English

Material Type 


Custodial Information

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.

Custodial History

It is unclear when and how collection came to be held at Queen's University Belfast.

Accrual Policy


Accrual Method


Accrual Periodicity




MacAdam, Robert Shipboy (1808-1895)

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)


Private Collector