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Coordinates: 54°35′49″N 5°56′10″W / 54.597°N 5.936°W / 54.597; -5.936

Royal Belfast Academical Institution
[[Image:RBAI, Belfast, October 2010 (02).JPG|center|]]
Motto Quaerere Verum
(To Seek the Truth)
Established 1810
Type Voluntary Grammar School
Principal Miss Janet Williamson M.A. (Oxon) NPQH
Chairman of the Board of Governors Mr Colin Gowdy
Founder William Drennan
Location College Square East
Northern Ireland
United Kingdom
School colours Black and Yellow

The Royal Belfast Academical Institution, is a grammar school in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Locally referred to as Inst, the school educates boys from ages 11 to 18. It is one of the eight Northern Irish schools represented on the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. The school occupies an 18-acre site in the centre of the city on which its first buildings was erected.


Academical Institute, Belfast, Co. Antrim (25461208942)
View of the Institute, circa 1910

The first demands for the school which would become "Inst" came from a group of Belfast merchants, and professional gentlemen. They insisted that the existing Belfast Academy under William Bruce did not offer a "complete, uniform, and extensive system of education." They hoped that a new school would give more access to the ‘higher' branches of learning as well as to those which would fit youths for a practical commercial career. The foundation stone of Inst. was laid, in pouring rain, on 3 July 1810 by George Augustus Chichester, 2nd Marquess of Donegall. Donegall owned much of the land in the Belfast area and granted the school a lease for the grounds at an annual rent of £22–5s–1d. The eminent English architect John Soane, who designed the new Bank of England in 1788, offered to draw up plans in 1809.

Building began in 1810. Money was collected to pay for the buildings by encouraging rich merchants and businessmen to subscribe one hundred guineas each for the privilege of being able to nominate one boy to receive free education at Inst. The roof of the main building was completed during the winter of 1811. The Institution was formally opened at 1:00pm on 1 February 1814. William Drennan announced that the aim was to ‘diffuse useful knowledge, particularly among the middling orders of society, as a necessity, not a luxury of life.' He also referred to the particularly noble and rural setting of the school – in front a fair and flourishing town, and backed by a sublime and thought-inspiring mountain. Until the middle of the 19th century, the RBAI was both a school and a university, a dual function which the Belfast Academy never had.


For the first three years boys normally follow a common curriculum: in the fourth year the curriculum is still general but certain options are introduced, and at the end of the fifth, boys sit the examination for the Northern Ireland GCSE. Subjects studied at AS/A2 level in the VIth Form include English, Modern History, Geography, Economics, French, German, Spanish, Greek, Latin, PE, Business Studies, Technology, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Politics, Chemistry, Biology, Music and Art.


House House Colour
Jones Yellow
Kelvin Green
Larmor White
Pirrie Blue
Stevenson Brown
Dill Red

Old Instonians

The school has an "old boys" club known casually as Instonians and formally as the Belfast Old Instonians Association (BOIA). At present the Rugby, Golf and Cricket section of the club are open for all to join, whilst the Hockey club is still open to past members of the school only. Originally set up as an "old boys" only club, the sports club was opened up to the public in response to the notable flow of Instonians to Great Britain for further education, many of whom did not return to Northern Ireland. This led to fears that the club would die out as current members grew older but were replaced by less and less 'new blood',


Royal Belfast Academical Institution has a preparatory department called Inchmarlo, founded in 1907 and now set in a 6-acre (24,000 m2) site on Cranmore Park, off the Malone Road in South Belfast. Inchmarlo House was the former home of Sir William Crawford, a Director of the York Street Flax Spinning Mill. It employs 11 full-time staff and caters for boys aged between 4 and 11 whose standard uniform consists of traditional school-caps, shorts, knee-high socks, school-blazers and leather satchels. It constantly attains impressive results in the 'eleven-plus exam11-plus' examination with 75% of pupils gaining an 'A' grade. Of those, approximately 99% (around 40) transfer to the main school every year. The Headmaster of Inchmarlo Preparatory School is Andy Smyth, and his Vice Principal is Malcolm Guy.


See also: Category:People educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution
  • John Miller Andrews, second Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
  • Thomas Andrews, chief designer at Harland and Wolff shipyards and RMS Titanic architect
  • Peter Barron, former editor of BBC Newsnight, Google's head of external relations for Europe, Middle East and Africa
  • Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, former Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, and former Chairman of the Board of Governors, RBAI
  • Wesley Burrowes, playwright and screenwriter
  • Sir Samuel Ferguson, Irish poet, barrister, antiquarian, artist and public servant. Elected President of the Royal Irish Academy in 1882.
  • Ryan Caldwell, Irish rugby international, Ulster Rugby player
  • Lord Carswell of Killeen, Law Lord and former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
  • Colonel Tim Collins, Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment in Iraq during Operation Telic (2001)
  • Sir Henry Kenneth Cowan, nutritionist and Chief Medical Officer of Health to Scotland
  • Sir Donald Currie, shipping magnate and founder of the Currie Cup rugby union competition held in South Africa
  • William Huston Dodd, judge of the High Court of Justice in Ireland 1907–24
  • Joseph R. Fisher, barrister, editor of the Belfast Newsletter, author, and Unionist commissioner on the Irish Boundary Commission.
  • William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, physicist. (The school's Kelvin house is named after him)
  • Lord Laird, Ulster Unionist life peer
  • Sir Joseph Larmor, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge University, 1903–33 (the school's Larmor house is named after him)
  • Michael Longley, poet
  • Lord Lowry, former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
  • Robert Wilson Lynd, Northern Irish author
  • Denis MacEoin, controversial novelist
  • Derek Mahon, poet
  • Bowman Malcolm (1854–1933), railway civil and mechanical engineer
  • Brian Mawhinney, a member of the Cabinet until 1997 and a Member of Parliament until 2005, currently Chairman of the Football League
  • R. B. McDowell, fellow of Trinity College Dublin, historian of 18th-century Ireland
  • Kenneth Montgomery, principal conductor, Ulster Orchestra
  • Dermott Monteith, the Ireland Cricket Team's all-time leading wicket taker
  • Jim Neilly, BBC boxing and rugby commentator
  • Sammy Nelson, former Arsenal and Northern Ireland footballer
  • Stephen Nolan, BBC radio and television presenter
  • Lembit Öpik, former Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire
  • Christopher Salmon Patterson (1823–1893), judge of the Supreme Court of Canada
  • William Pirrie, Viscount Pirrie, Chairman of Harland and Wolff 1895–1924. (Pirrie House is named in his memory)
  • Mark Pollock, blind international rower, entrepreneur and explorer
  • Paul Rankin, television chef and former owner of a chain of restaurants in Belfast
  • Forrest Reid, Ulster novelist and literary critic
  • William D. Richardson, Director of the UCL Wolfson Institute
  • Maj Gen Jeremy Rowan CB, OBE, QHS, FRCP, Director General Army Medical Services 2014-2016
  • Christopher Rowden Hill, photographer
  • Brigadier John Alexander Sinton VC, OBE, FRS, MB, DL (1884–1956), doctor, malariologist and recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Paul Smith, founder of Celador; creator of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (gameshow); executive producer of Slumdog Millionaire (film)
  • Leonard Steinberg, Baron Steinberg, life peer and businessman
  • Dawson Stelfox, the leader of the 1993 Irish Expedition to Mount Everest and the first Northern Irishman to reach the summit
  • Albert Stewart, Irish rugby international who died in World War I
  • Ian Stewart, Northern Ireland International Footballer
  • Robin Thompson, captain British and Irish Lions rugby team 1955, South Africa
  • Air Vice Marshal Sir William Tyrrell, Irish Rugby international, member of first official British Isles Rugby team in 1910, decorated military officer, and surgeon to King George VI of the United Kingdom
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