Robert Shipboy McAdam

Antiquarian and Gaelic Scholar


Educated at R.B.A.I., McAdam was a member of that remarkable generation of Presbyterian industrialists who embraced all branches of culture and saw no contradiction between the encouragement of the Irish language and loyalty to the Crown.

His works he set up, the Soho Foundry in Townsend Street, Belfast, eventually employed 250 people. He patented a design for a steam turbine and sold his products as far afield as Egypt, learning Arabic in the process: it was one of the many languages of which he had some knowledge; he is known to have spoken and written at least thirteen.

At the age of 22 McAdam founded the Ulster Gaelic society – the first of its kind in Ireland – and collected a large number of Irish manuscripts, as well as publishing a Gaelic dictionary, compiled with the help of a native Irish speaker. Most of his documents are held in the Central Library, Belfast. He was also active in the Literary Society, the Natural History and Philosophical Society and the Harmonic and Harp Societies. He was one of the founders of the Belfast Museum and edited the Ulster Journal of Archaeology for nine years. He is buried in Nowtownbreda Cemetery.

Location of plaque: On Stokes House (now Kelvin Building), 21-25 College Square East, the site of his home.

This Plaque was temporarily removed from the building at 21-25 College Street East during 2019 to facilitate the refurbishment of the front of the building. The plaque was re-instated in Nov/Dec 2020 on the now renamed Kelvin House.


Date of Unveiling: 30 August 1996