Anne Hailes: Dr Ian Adamson was such a widely respected and knowledgeable man

The late Dr Ian Adamson meets Queen Elizabeth and former president Mary McAleese

THE sad news of Dr Ian Adamson’s death has reverberated far and wide. Highly respected and so knowledgeable, as I discovered when I visited him when he was lord mayor of Belfast in 1996.

I recall talking to him in the mayor’s sitting room and learning that he spoke 10 languages including Lakota Sioux, Swahili, Russian and Irish. He showed me the precious pipe of peace presented by the senior citizens of the Sioux tribe when he was made Freeman of the City and accepted into the inner circle of elders of the tribe.

A medical man of great knowledge and humour and I still laugh at the story he told me of his lecture to a group of medical students on the subject of sex. Although later happily married, at that time he was a bachelor living with his mother, so he felt it was better to tell her that the lecture was on sailing!

When she met one of the students some time later he commented on how well the lecturer had spoken and how knowledgeable her son was on the subject. “That’s surprising,” said Mrs Adamson. "He has only done it twice, the first time he was sick and the second time his hat blew off."

As founder chair of The Ulster-Scots Language Society we discussed dialect versus language. He said that it’s a dialect to some and a language to others and went on to explain that Ulster Scots is described as a variation of the Scots language and how words often disappear in the mother tongue but are preserved in other countries thanks to native speakers resettling and literally passing on a living language.

Ulster Scots is such an expressive language, he said, a ‘gulder’ sounds much more terrifying than a shout and a ‘bad wee skitter’ more descriptive than a naughty little boy and there’s more feeling in ‘tholing’ than suffering.

As a friend on Facebook he challenged views and misconceptions. His last posting was on December 27 2018 at 4.20pm: “The Ulster-Scots movement has the potential to be a truly world movement and an expression of profound importance of what makes Ulster different from the rest of the island. And it far exceeds Gaelic in importance.”

A powerful man in such a gently incisive way.


IT ALWAYS strikes me as being a terrible pity that you only get to know a person at their funeral. How often do you say I’d no idea she did that or he was involved in that or just what a good person he or she was.

It was like that at the funeral of Barbara Morrison last July at Toberdoney Presbyterian Church in Dervock when over 1,000 gathered in the small country church.

Barbara was born into the Foote family of Coleraine in 1962. She was the eldest to Jim and Grace, sister to Robin and Alison. I knew the family from wild and wonderful days of holidaying in Donegal but like many others I didn’t know what she did in adult life nor about the Smiles Foundation where for 10 years she worked as development ambassador and volunteer coordinator.

This is a Christian charity working in Romania with disadvantaged families, minority groups, the homeless, disabled, abused and the elderly, putting smiles on the faces of men, women and children in the wake of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s repressive and brutal regime.

Representatives from the charity travelled to Dervock to express their sadness and spoke of their gratitude for a woman who had a passion to serve others.

“Her first of so many visits to Romania was in 2008 and at times her work brought challenges and disappointments yet Barbara always took a positive stance on dealing with the most difficult of circumstances. Always ready to hug a sad and desperate person who instantly felt better just having an arm of love around them, always ready to offer support to staff who needed help or the hope of raising the necessary money to do the work in Romania day by day.”


Often she spoke at school assemblies in the morning, at lunchtime women’s meetings and then an evening Church group, all part of her day spreading the news at her own expense whether it was travelling or office expenses. Constantly on the telephone and sending emails to someone somewhere – such was Barbara’s commitment to the task.

Her motto was We Can Do It and she proved she could; collecting and sorting donated items for the Smiles Container that is packed and sent twice a year from Ballymoney to Romania, she loved and supported every project operating in Romania including residential centres for the elderly. Being a farmer’s wife back home in Co Antrim, she also loved working at the Smiles farm and glasshouse, where her husband Sam is an advisor.

One project was special but sadly Barbara never got to see. It is the newest of Smiles Projects, the Dezna Outreach Centre – a facility now being worked on to provide care, support and hope to young and old alike, the disabled and a particular focus on the blind and partially sighted.

“Barbara was ready to work at the centre, leading teams from the UK, Ireland and America on Phase One of this new project, as well as taking on the challenge to help raise £100,000 to complete the facility in 2019, so as to run summer camps providing ‘mountain top experiences’ for city kids and others who never get a real vacation.”

Such was the impact of her work and the lasting respect local people have for Barbara’s memory, it was recently decided that when the Dezna Outreach Centre is completed it will be dedicated to her memory, a woman who brought smiles to thousands of people during her life working for the disadvantaged of Romania.

:: More information on The Smiles Foundation at

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