Adair, Sir Robert Alexander Shafto (1811–86), 2nd baronet, Baron Waveney, MP and author, was born 25 August 1811, elder son of Sir Robert Shafto Adair (1st baronet, of Flixton Hall, Suffolk, and Ballymena, Co. Antrim) and Elizabeth Adair (née Strode), and educated at Harrow (1823–8). The family was prominent in Co. Antrim and in Suffolk; in 1853, Adair was high sheriff of Co. Antrim. He sat as liberal MP for Cambridge (1847–52, 1854–7), was an unsuccessful candidate in Canterbury (1865) and Antrim county (1869), and in 1869 inherited the baronetcy. He gave land in the town of Ballymena for the People's Park, opened in 1870. He was lieutenant-colonel of East Suffolk militia artillery (1853–81) and military ADC to Queen Victoria from 1857. He wrote on militias and national defence; one of his pamphlets, The militias of the United Kingdom, appeared in four editions during 1855–60. A leading liberal and president of the Ulster Reform Club, he unsuccessfully sought a peerage in 1869. On Gladstone's recommendation he was eventually enobled on 10 April 1873, taking the title Baron Waveney. He conscientiously participated in many aspects of public life in Ulster, especially in Ballymena, where he gave regular entertainments to all classes of society; those of the poorer classes, who smuggled away as much food as they ate, perhaps enjoyed these occasions the most. In the 1860s and 1870s he published a number of pamphlets on the Church of Ireland and similar topics, and regarded himself as an expert on Italy; his pamphlet of 1847 on emigration and outdoor relief went into three editions. On 5 June 1845 he was elected a member of the Royal Society. He married (11 June 1836) Theodosia Meade, granddaughter of John Meade (1744–1800), 1st earl of Clanwilliam; they had no children, and the peerage became extinct at his death (16 February 1886).
Boase; Burke, Peerage (1912), 68; G.E.C., Peerage, xii, pt 2 (1959), 434–5; BL catalogue 1975; Debroy Barr, The big woman in the park: her story (1992); S. Alex Blair, County Antrim characters: Acheson to Gilmour (1993), 9–11