James Donald (1830-1905)

James Donald was one of the principal donors to the Kelvingrove Gallery. Over his lifetime, he collected paintings from The Hague School, French Barbizon School and also from British artists such as Turner and Constable. Towards the end of nineteenth century, he also used to loan a number of his paintings to exhibitions held in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The bequest to the Gallery from James Donald in 1905, which contained paintings of the nineteenth century Dutch, French and British oil paintings and watercolours, set the foundation for the Kelvingrove Galleries’ Impressionist Collection. During his lifetime, James Donald also made significant donations to his home town of Bothwell.

James Donald was born in 1830 in Bothwell, Lanarkshire. His parents were Mr John Donald, a grocer and spirit dealer in Bothwell and Mrs Jane (Lang) Donald. He had two older brothers, John born in 1826 and Gavin born in 1828 and a younger brother Robert who died in infancy. After the deaths of his father John Donald in 1834, when our donor was only four years old, and his brother John Jr. in 1841 [1], his mother Mrs Jane Donald found herself running the business as grocer and spirit dealer alone and looking after two young boys. This difficult period in the Donald Family’s life is somehow relieved when Mrs Donald, our donor’s mother married George Miller, a manufacturing chemist in 1843 (the Banns were proclaimed in Bothwell and Glasgow). In the 1851 census, it is recorded that the family has moved to 3 James Street, Calton, Lanarkshire near Bridgeton. However, in this census, our donor, James Donald is not listed with the family. The occupation of Mr Miller, James Donald’s stepfather is listed as the Head of the household and his occupation is described as manufacturing chemist employing 74 men in his firm.

From the Glasgow Post Office Directories 1905-1906 [2]  the name and the address of his stepfather’s Chemical Manufacturing firm to be:

Miller, George, & Co., gas coal-tar distillers, manufacturers of sulphate of ammonia, naphthas,  benzoles, pitch, carbolic acid, creosote, and dipping  oils; 40 West Nile Street.

The works; 89 Rumford St.

Miller, Geo., commission agent; 20 Smith St., Hillhead.

In the 1861 census, the Miller Family is still in Glasgow but James is still not with them. At the time of the 1861 census, the family had moved to 137 Greenhead St, Calton, Glasgow. In the 1871 census, James Donald re-appears. He is now 39 years old and the address is Wingfield Bothwell Lanarkshire. He is recorded as the stepson of the Householder George Miller (retired manufacturing chemist) and his occupation is recorded as Manufacturing Chemist.

During this period (1861), there appears to be a court case taken against George Miller and Company by the famous chemist James (Paraffin) Young and others with regard to some dispute over patent infringement [3]. However, the name of James Donald does not appear in the records quoted.

James Donald’s stepfather George Miller of Wingfield Bothwell died on the 5th January 1877.  His estate was valued [4] at £13,649 8s 5d with an additional estate of £410.

In the 1881 census, James appears on the census as living at 5 Queens Terrace, Barony, Lanark. He is the head of the house and his brother Gavin is staying with him. There is also a domestic servant in the house by the name of Margaret Nicholson. In the 1891 census, it is recorded that James is now 60 years old and married to Emily Mary. Mr and Mrs Donald are living with their daughter also called Emily. There are four others in the household. Their address is recorded as: 5 Queens Terrace, Barony, Lanark.

In the 1901 census, James Donald appears in the English Census as living in 96 Anerly Park, Anerly, London SE, Borough of Camberwell, Hamlet of Penge. He is living with his wife Emily Mary and two servants. His son-in-law Harry Busby lives with Emily at 94 Anerly Park, Anerly, London.

On the 16th March 1905, Mr James Donald died. The following notice was recorded in the Death Notices of the Glasgow Herald [5] of 21st  March 1905:

Donald, – At 96 Anerly Park Anerly, London on 16th March (inst.) James Donald also of 5 Queens Terrace, Glasgow – Friends please accepts this (the only) intimation.  

 The key words which was used in this search was ‘manufacturing chemist’, the profession of Mr James Donald.  It was evident that James Donald, the donor, worked in his stepfather’s firm, George Miller and Co. in Glasgow as a Manufacturing Chemist.  Because of the scientific nature of his profession, initially, it was assumed that he might have been a graduate of Glasgow University. However, a search in the register of graduates revealed that his name did not appear there. We know that all university students do not necessarily graduate for one reason or another. Therefore, it is possible that Mr Donald may have attended the university but not graduated. No further search was made as to his university education.

From his collection which was bequeathed in 1905, it was clear that he was a keen art collector. As there were a number of well known art dealers in Glasgow in the 1880s, such as Alexander Reid and Craig Angus, it was fairly easy for him to indulge in collecting the works of the new art of the era. Our donor was particularly interested in the artists of the Hague School of the Netherlands and French Realists such as Jozef Israëls and Jean Francoise Millet respectively.

Furthermore, it is known that he also made significant contributions to Bothwell, the town of his birth. Firstly, in 1880, he donated the Centre Window of the Bothwell Parish Church [6]. This is a three-light window whose theme is a series of six parables drawn by Sir John E Millais R A which originally appeared in a magazine called “Good Words” edited by Dr Norman Macleod [7] in the 1860s. Other portions of the windows were designed and the entire work was executed by Cottier & Co. of London in 1880. A picture of this window is depicted below.


Bothwell Parish Church Window
Figure 1. Centre Window of Bothwell Parish Church. Courtesy of the Rev.James Gibson.

An inscription on the brass plate beneath the picture states “This window was gifted by Mr James Donald in expression of his appreciation of the order in which the parish Church graveyard had been put by the Heritor’s of Bothwell during the Ministry of the Rev. John Pagan M A, March 1880.”

Secondly, another contribution of James Donald was to erect a monument to Joanna Baillie, who was a famous daughter of Bothwell. Her father, Rev. James Baillie (c.1722–1778), was a Presbyterian minister and briefly, during the two years before his death, a Professor of Divinity at the University of Glasgow. Her mother Dorothea Hunter (c.1721–1806) was a sister of the great physicians and anatomists, William and John Hunter.

Joanna Baillie was born in the manse behind the church on 11th September 1762. Her father having died in 1776, Joanna and the family moved to London where she was later to become a friend of Sir Walter Scott. Joanna spent the rest of her life in Hampstead where she is buried. Here, she was to gain fame as a poet and a playwright, often writing in her native lowland Scots dialect, her verse “Family Legend” being one of her best known works. A picture of the Joanna Bailley Memorial is shown below. More information about Bothwell Church and Joanna Baillie monument may be obtained from the links below.

Monument to Joanna Baillie
Figure 2. Joanna Bailley Memorial in Bothwell. Courtesy of the Rev. James Gibson


The third  important contribution made by James Donald to the town of Bothwell was to leave money in his will for a place of education and recreation for boys. This resulted in the building of the Donald Institute in 1910 by the architect Alexander Cullen who had secured the commission by competition. Later, the Donald Institute was converted to Bothwell Public Library which to this day contains a room dedicated to James Donald called the “Donald Institute”.  More information can be obtained from the following link:


When he died on 16th March 1905, James Donald bequeathed to the Corporation in trust of the City of Glasgow a large number of paintings and bric-a-brac. A descriptive inventory and valuation of the pictures etc. had been prepared by an expert, who had valued the bequest at over £42,000 (in the year of 1905). The pictures include some of the finest examples of Turner, W.Q. Orchardson, Velasquez, Corot, Rousseau, Millet, Kalf and other eminent artists. The copies of the official minutes are kept by the Corporation of the City of Glasgow, in chronological order. Below are the 4 of his 40 paintings that James Donald gifted to the Gallery.

The Happy Family by Josef Israels
Figure 3. The Happy Family by Jozef Isarels. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (www.artuk.org)


Figure 4. Going to Work by Juan Francoise Millet. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (www.artuk.org)


Maris, Jacob Henricus, 1837-1899; A Girl Asleep on a Sofa
Figure 5. A Girl Asleep on a Sofa by Jacob Henricus Maris. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (www.artuk.org)


Turner, Joseph Mallord William, 1775-1851; Italian Scene with Boats and Figures
Figure 6. Italian Scene with Boats and Figures by J.M.W. Turner. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (www.artuk.org)


[1] Graves of his Father and two brothers http://www.memento-mori.co.uk/88.pdf

[2] Mitchell Library, Glasgow, PO Glasgow Directory, 1905-1906, p. 542.

[3] Corporate.  May 2010. Shale Oil. https://www.scottishshale.co.uk/KnowledgePages/Companies/Miller_John&Co.html. [Accessed on 19 March 2018].

[4] Confirmations and Inventories,. Mitchell Library. Glasgow. Year 1877, p 382.

[5] Death Notices. 21st March 1905. Glasgow Herald.

[6] Bothwell Parish Church http://bothwellparishchurch.org.uk/history/the-centre-window/. [Accessed on 19 March 2018].

[7] Dr Norman Macleod, Good Words. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Words, [Accessed on 19 March 2018].

[8] Joanna Baillie-monument. https://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/200336476-bothwell-bothwell-parish-church-joanna-baillie-monument-bothwell#.Wq-n0Jenzv8, [Accessed on 19 March 2018].

One thought on “James Donald (1830-1905)

Leave a Reply to Erol Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.