Adair, Patrick (c.1624–1694), presbyterian minister and historian, was the third son of John Adair, of Genoch in Galloway. He graduated from the University of St Andrews in 1642 and proceeded in 1644 to study divinity in the University of Glasgow. When licensed he travelled to Ireland, where he had a number of relatives, including an uncle, Sir Robert Adair, who held an estate at Ballymena, and the presbyterian minister William Adair. A great-uncle, Archibald Adair (qv), had been a bishop in the Church of Ireland. On 7 May 1646 Patrick Adair was ordained and installed at Cairncastle, Co. Antrim, probably as a result of the patronage of the local landowner, James Shaw. Both he and Shaw were members of a committee appointed by the presbytery of Carrickfergus in 1648 to correspond with the parliamentary commanders in Ulster on matters affecting presbyterians.
Following the execution of Charles I in January 1649, Adair and his fellow presbyterians fell foul of the new Cromwellian regime, and in the early 1650s he was forced to exercise a covert ministry preaching in fields and barns. About 1650 he married Margaret, the daughter of Rev. Robert Cunningham, the presbyterian minster at Holywood, Co. Down. Their first child, William (d. 1698), was born the following year. In the early 1650s Adair was one of the main defenders of the presbyterian position in Ulster: he took part in a public disputation with independents and baptists at Antrim in 1652, and the following year he was one of the presbyterian negotiators with the government about the presbyterian resistance to taking an engagement oath of loyalty to the Commonwealth and abjuring monarchy.
In the latter 1650s the administration of Henry Cromwell (qv) in Ireland turned to the Old Protestants, including the Ulster presbyterians, for support. Adair became one of the state-funded ministers of the gospel based at Cairncastle, receiving £50 in 1655 and £100 in 1656. He was a supporter of Henry Cromwell's church policy of reintroducing a single ecclesiastical regime, without bishops and funded by tithes. In 1660 he was one of the eight ecclesiastical advisors in the convention at Dublin, possibly appointed on the suggestion of the presbyterian Sir John Clotworthy (qv) from Antrim. At the convention Adair's principal aim was to have presbyterian government and the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 placed at the core of any religious settlement. The restoration of episcopacy in 1660 led to Adair's ejection from his living and his eclipse in political life, and he returned to Cairncastle. After Blood's (qv) plot in 1663 he and a number of other presbyterian ministers were arrested and briefly imprisoned. He was released after the intervention of John Clotworthy, now Viscount Massereene, on condition that he lived peaceably.
In 1669 Adair was at Cairncastle, where the hearth money rolls record him as living in Ballyhackett townland. After the death of his first wife he married his cousin Jean, the daughter of Sir Robert Adair of Ballymena, with whom he had three sons – Archibald, Alexander, and Patrick – and a daughter, Ellen. In the 1670s he was active in presbyterian politics. He arbitrated in a dispute in the Bull Alley presbyterian congregation in Dublin in 1671 and 1672, and in the latter year he was involved in negotiations with the government for the grant of the regium donum to presbyterian ministers. In 1674 he was called to the rapidly growing Belfast congregation. About this time his second wife died and he married his third wife, Elizabeth Anderson, the widow of a prominent Belfast merchant, who survived him. At Belfast he was regarded as a moderate presbyterian and in 1684 was said to be one of those presbyterian ministers who prayed for the king, much to the chagrin of radical Scottish Covenanters. He was also on good terms with the local landlord, the earl of Donegall, from whom he borrowed money and leased land.
Adair supported the Williamite cause and was one of the presbyterian delegation who welcomed William III (qv) to England in 1689 and to Ireland in 1690. He became one of the trustees of the regium donum fund, which had been much increased by William. Adair is noted in the records of the synod of Ulster for 1694 as ‘being now dead’. His will, dated 26 January 1693, stated he held land worth £400 from the earl of Donegall. He also left plate, furniture, and books and asked that his body be buried at Belfast. He was probably buried in the parish cemetery at Shankill where other presbyterians were buried.
Adair's main written work was a history of Ulster presbyterianism entitled ‘A true narrative of the rise and progress of the presbyterian government in the north of Ireland’. It drew on his own experiences and those of his contemporaries as well as on earlier letters and diaries. The narrative ends abruptly in 1670 and was probably unfinished. It may have been commissioned by the Antrim meeting, the forerunner of the synod of Ulster, and in 1697 the synod paid Adair's son William to transcribe it. The aim of the work, as its title suggests, is to trace the development of the structures of Scottish presbyterianism in Ulster in the middle of the seventeenth century. As such it is the product of the ‘presbyterian revolution’ of seventeenth-century Scotland which regarded the establishment of presbyterian structures of discipline as the central work of the Reformation. Adair's narrative was published for the first time, in an edition by W. D. Killen (qv), in 1866 as A true narrative of the rise and progress of the presbyterian church in Ireland (1623–1670).