Back to Membership
On 25 June 1731, a group of patriots and visionaries met for the first time and formed what is now called the RDS. They were radical thinkers who believed in action. They believed that operating through an organised structure was the best way to make the biggest and most sustainable impact. Their mission was to put ideas into action that would transform Ireland and create a thriving vibrant culture and economy that could support its people and take its place in the world.
For almost 300 years the RDS has responded to the needs and priorities of Ireland, addressing gaps in the development of our culture and economy that have shaped the country. By 1734, they had organized the planting of 55 million trees to make better use of the land as well as grow wood for future building and development. By 1877, they had created or nurtured four major cultural institutions to support artists and showcase the best of Irish arts and culture - The National Museum of Ireland, The National Library, The National Gallery and NCAD. In 1864, they recognised the potential of the Irish horse, the motorcar of the time, and devised a Horse Show to promote advances and best practice in horse breeding and to showcase Irish horses.
Many committed visionary people have sat around the RDS table and have made a huge impact on Irish life; Sir Edward Stanley, who had the idea of an event to showcase Irish manufacturing with an aim to improve employment opportunities in Ireland; Walter Wade who was the brainchild and creator of our National Botanical Gardens; RDS Members, who currently commit to financially support artists and musicians in Ireland. William Wiley and Edward Bohane who were pivotal in building the impact of the Dublin Horse Show and Spring Show to showcase best practice to farmers around Ireland and raise the profile of Irish animals in foreign markets. The list of these 'great minds' is endless, inspiring and encouraging.
Thomas Prior, and the founding Members who gathered around him, believed from the very beginning that having a base to nurture ideas and where Members can research, discuss and make plans was vital to the level of impact they could achieve. Wherever they landed, the RDS Members have created an inspiring, energetic, visionary base. From rooms in Trinity College Dublin in 1731, to Leinster House in 1814, which they handed over to the Irish Government in 1923, and finally to Ballsbridge. In Ballsbridge different ideas had a place to grow, events and discussion could happen in beautiful surrounds, a concert hall for music, a library to preserve historic books and documents, iconic halls to showcase industry and a fine sporting arena that is already iconic within European rugby and home to one of the best equestrian events in the globe.
Throughout its history, the RDS has brought momentum and scale to major issues that underpin Ireland’s culture and economy and it continues to do so until this day.