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The Royal Dublin Society
Logo of the Royal Dublin Society.jpg
Abbreviation RDS
Motto Nostri plena laboris (Latin Our work bears fruit)
Founded June 25, 1731; 289 years ago (1731-06-25) (The Dublin Society)
1820 (The Royal Dublin Society)
Origins The Dublin Society
Area served
Key people
President: Ms Bernie Brennan
Formerly called
The Dublin Society

The Royal Dublin Society (RDS) is the name given in 1820 to a philanthropic organisation which was founded as the 'Dublin Society' on 25 June 1731 to see Ireland thrive culturally and economically. The RDS is synonymous with its campus in Ballsbridge in Dublin, Ireland. This campus includes the "RDS Arena", "RDS Simmonscourt", "RDS Main Hall" and other venues which are used regularly for exhibitions, concerts and sporting events, including regular use by the Leinster Rugby team.

Name and history

RDS Dublin 2008 - main entrance
Front entrance

The society was founded by members of the Dublin Philosophical Society, chiefly Thomas Prior and Samuel Madden, as the 'Dublin Society for improving Husbandry, Manufactures and other Useful Arts'. On 8 July 1731 – a couple of weeks after initial foundation – the designation 'and Sciences' was added to the end of its name.

The stated aim of the "Dublin Society" was to promote the development of arts, agriculture, industry and science in Ireland and in 1792 the Society purchased the Leskean Cabinet to further this ambition. The "Royal" prefix was adopted in 1820 when George IV became Society patron.


RDS arch-Mystery of the Missing Minerva!
Entrance arch to Leinster House, home of the RDS. Circa 1863–1880.

The society purchased Leinster House, home of the Duke of Leinster, in 1815 and founded a natural history museum there. The society acquired its current premises at Ballsbridge in 1879, and has since increased from the original fifteen to forty acres (60,000 to 160,000 m²). The premises consist of a number of exhibition halls (at the "RDS Main Hall"), a stadium (the "RDS Arena"), meeting rooms, bars, restaurants, and a multi purpose venue named "RDS Simmonscourt Pavilion".

The RDS Main Hall is a major centre for exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events in Dublin. It hosts, for example, the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition each January.

The Simmonscourt Pavilion has a capacity of approximately 7,000, and hosted the Meteor Music Awards in February 2008, as well as a number of concerts including The Smashing Pumpkins and My Chemical Romance, and two Eurovision Song Contests, in 1981 and in 1988. Simmonscourt is where the show jumping horses are stabled during Dublin Horse Show week.

RDS Arena

The RDS Arena (more commonly known simply as the RDS) was developed to host equestrian events, including the annual Dublin Horse Show. It is often used for other sporting events however – primarily football and rugby. Between September 1990 and April 1996 it was used for home games of Shamrock Rovers football club, on 19 February 1992 it played host to a home game between the Republic of Ireland national football team and Wales, and hosted the 2007 and 2008 FAI Cup finals.

In 2007 and 2008 the arena's capacity was expanded to 18,250 (with additional seated stands being built), and the venue is now used by the Leinster Rugby team for home games. The club also moved their Leinster Rugby Store to the RDS (between the two parade rings), and it is open on match days.

The covered Anglesea Stand is the oldest stand in the ground below which there is a small amount of terracing. Opposite the Anglesea Stand is the Grandstand which contains the TV gantry and was covered with a roof in 2008. Behind the goals are the uncovered North and South stands which are removed for showjumping events to allow for extra space.

The DART runs close to the RDS premises with Lansdowne and Sandymount being the closest stops. The RDS is served by bus route numbers 4, 7, 18 and 27x, which stop outside the Main Hall Entrance to the RDS on Merrion Road.


Dublin Horse Show

Dublin Horse Show 2008 - main arena
Main arena
Dublin Horse Show 2008 - Anglesea Stand
Anglesea stand

The first solely Society-run Horse Show was held in 1868 and was one of the earliest "leaping" competitions ever held. Over time it has become a high profile International show jumping competition, national showing competition and major entertainment event in Ireland. In 1982 the RDS hosted the Show Jumping World Championships and incorporated it into the Dublin Horse Show of that year. The Dublin Horse Show has an array of national & international show jumping competitions and world class equestrian entertainment, great shopping, delicious food, music & fantastic daily entertainment.There are over 130 classes at the Show and they can be generally categorised into the following types of equestrian competitions: showing classes, performance classes and showjumping classes.

As an exhibitor, walking through those gates in Dublin 4, is the highlight of the year. To be able to compete in one of the four Royal Dublin Society arenas, in which you will showcase your hard work and partnership you have with your horse. If you are lucky enough to come and watch the action at the Dublin horse show, you will be greeted by the abundance of shops to avail of throughout the day. form equestrian stores to antiques, there is something for everybody at the Dublin Horse Show. A Great, fun-filled family day out.


In recent years, the venue has been used as a music venue, for many rock, heavy metal and pop artists.

Bruce Springsteen has played there eleven times since 1988: The Tunnel of Love Express Tour (1988), The Other Band Tour (1993), The Reunion Tour (1999), "The Rising Tour" (2003), the "Magic Tour" (2008), three times for the "Working on a Dream Tour" (2009), and twice for the The Wrecking Ball Tour (2012). He played for 40,000 people during The Rising Tour in May 2003, 115,500 people at the arena during his Magic Tour in May 2008, and 80,000+ people during his Working on a Dream Tour.

In June 2008, American band Paramore played their debut Irish concert in the RDS Arena.

Other notable performers who have played in the main arena include: Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson, Kylie Minogue, Radiohead, Shania Twain, The Cure and Metallica among others. U2 played 2 dates of their "Zooropa" tour on the 27 and 28 August 1993 in the main Arena.

On 30 April 1988, the Eurovision Song Contest took place in the Simmonscourt Pavilion and was won by Celine Dion. Seven Years Earlier, on 4 April 1981, the Eurovision Song Contest was held there, was won by Bucks Fizz.

Professional wrestling

In 2005, the RDS hosted a WWE SmackDown event as part of the WWE Summerbash tour of Europe. The event featured wrestlers such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, John Cena, Kurt Angle, and Rey Mysterio.

Rugby Union

The RDS is the home of Leinster Rugby. The RDS hosts Leinster's home matches in the Magners League and the Heineken Cup as well as some pre-season games. In March 2008, the final of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup was played in the RDS due to the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road, its traditional venue. An autumn international between Ireland and Fiji was played 21 November 2009.

Association Football

Shamrock Rovers F.C. played their home matches at the RDS stadium between 1990 and 1996, including against Górnik Zabrze in the 1994–95 UEFA Cup. The stadium hosted an international between the Republic of Ireland and Wales in February 1992; the 1994 UEFA Under-16 Championships; the FAI Cup Final in 2007 and 2008; and the 2008–09 UEFA Cup match between St Patrick's Athletic and Hertha Berlin. St. Pat's also played Steaua Bucureşti in the Arena on 27 August 2009 in the Play-off round of the opening season of the Europa League. The Republic of Ireland played two international friendly fixtures on 25 and 28 May 2010 against Paraguay and Algeria.


In 1983, the Ireland team played in the World Group of the Davis Cup for the only time. The match against a United States team including John McEnroe was played in the RDS rather than the usual venue, Fitzwilliam, to accommodate crowds of 6,000 each day.


The RDS hosts the University College Dublin exams before Christmas and in May/June, and Trinity College Dublin exams in April, among others.


Boyle Medal for Scientific Excellence

The Boyle Medal (named after Robert Boyle (1627–1691), was inaugurated in 1899 and is awarded jointly by the RDS and the Irish Times for scientific research of exceptional merit in Ireland. By 2013 the medal had been awarded to 38 scientists.

Past recipients of the Boyle Medal:

  • 2014 Seamus Martin
  • 2011 Margaret Murnane
  • 2009 Luke A. J. O'Neill
  • 2005 Garret Adare Fitzgerald
  • 2003 John McCanny
  • 2001 Derek Ernest Gilmor Briggs
  • 1999 Thomas Cotter
  • 1996 Patrick Cunningham
  • 1992 Brendan K. P. Scaife
  • 1988 Peter Kevin Carroll
  • 1986 James Robert McConnell
  • 1982 David Allardice Webb
  • 1981 Roy C. Geary
  • 1979 Cormac O'Ceallaigh
  • 1978 George Francis Mitchell
  • 1972 John Lighton Synge
  • 1971 Patrick Joseph Nolan
  • 1970 Thomas J. Walsh
  • 1969 Vincent C. Barry
  • 1967 Edward J. Conway
  • 1961 Phyllis E. M. Clinch
  • 1959 Robert McKay
  • 1950 Edmond J. Sheehy
  • 1947 John Hewitt Jellet Poole
  • 1945 Thomas J. Nolan
  • 1942 Joseph Doyle
  • 1939 Joseph Reilly
  • 1936 Horace H. Poole
  • 1933 Paul A. Murphy
  • 1931 Sir John Purser Griffith
  • 1928 Walter Ernest Adeney
  • 1928 William Ringrose Gelston Atkins
  • 1921 George Herbert Pethybridge
  • 1917 John Alexander McClelland
  • 1916 Henry Horatio Dixon
  • 1912 Sir Howard Grubb
  • 1911 John Joly
  • 1899 Thomas Preston
  • 1899 George Johnstone Stoney
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