Colin Donald

Burrell Collection trustee

Colin Dunlop Donald, lawyer: born Strathaven, Lanarkshire 24 July 1934; partner, McGrigor Donald 1966-94; married 1961 Theresa Gilliland (two sons, one daughter); died Bruton, Somerset 13 October 2006.

When in 1997 the Director of Glasgow Museums, supported by Glasgow City Council, mounted a legal challenge to the terms of the will of one of their greatest benefactors, there was outrage among museum staff nationwide. Julian Spalding sought to lend out items from the Burrell Collection, contrary to the specified wishes of the collector and shipowner Sir William Burrell, who died in 1958. Neil MacGregor, Director of the National Gallery, among many others, deplored the challenge, but it was left to Colin Donald to fight it.

As senior trustee of Sir William Burrell's Trust, he probably knew more about the founder of the Burrell Collection's family and their wishes than any man alive. He also played a pivotal role in the affairs of Glasgow University and of the National Trust for Scotland.

In a larger context, he was, from 1990 to 2004, a most active director, and latterly deputy chairman, of the Universities Superannuation Scheme. Professor Sir Graeme Davies, currently Vice-Chancellor of London University but formerly Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool, a chief executive of the Universities Funding Council and of the Higher Education Funding Council and, from 1995 to 2003, Principal of Glasgow University, pays tribute to Donald's work in managing a pension scheme crucial to so many academics. With funds of £20bn, it is the fourth largest in Britain.

Colin Dunlop Donald was born in 1934 into an old legal family - though his father was a stockbroker - and went to Cargilfield School in Edinburgh, where he was subjected to the iron discipline of H.J. Kittermaster. By way of scholarships he progressed to Rugby School and then to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, reading Part One of the Classical Tripos and then Law.

In the interregnum between school and university he became a second lieutenant in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) but to his disappointment was posted no further than Barnard Castle. He used to say wryly that his introduction to the law was defending Jocks who had had too much to drink in the local magistrates' court.

On graduation he joined the family law firm of McGrigor Donald - founded by another Colin Dunlop Donald, his great-great-grandfather, in the early 19th century (transmuting from C.D. Donald & Sons in 1871 to McGrigor Donald, and now simply McGrigors). There he gained a golden reputation as a caring family lawyer who was never too rushed or pressurised to make a client feel that they did not have his entire attention.

Donald's contribution to Scottish life was manifold. As senior trustee he was absolute in defence of the interests of Sir William Burrell's Trust. "The trustees," he wrote in a letter to The Independent in 1997,

have been obliged to oppose [the Spalding challenge] formally as we are of the view that we have a prescribed agenda to follow, which is to uphold the terms of the gift so meticulously set out by Sir William Burrell.

Anyway, he suggested,

The widened lending powers being sought will bring no benefit to the collection, although I suppose they might have a spin-off for Glasgow in tourism terms, but even that is arguable. The trustees have seen no evidence that Glasgow has "lost out" on any exhibitions because of the restrictions on lending items from the Burrell Collection abroad.

He spent 17 years on the Council of Glasgow University and impressed all who came in contact with him with his mastery of detail. Graeme Davies, like two other Glasgow Vice-Chancellors, Sir William Kerr Fraser and Sir Muir Russell, recollects Donald's vital if unromantic work for the Finance and General Purposes Committee of a university which faced so many difficult, messy and challenging problems.

An enthusiast for organisations that were concerned with the protection of nature, Donald was a private encourager of garden birds and the sworn enemy of the grey squirrel. But perhaps his greatest public contribution was his lifelong devotion to the business of the Scottish National Trust, of which he had been a member of council since 1974 and a Vice-President since 1996. In the 1990s he chaired a committee on the reorganisation of the trust's management, producing the Donald Report, which advocated more delegation of authority to the regions. He himself had been notably involved in the affairs of the Pollok Estate in Glasgow and, in 1989, persuaded the trust to take on Geilston Garden in Dunbartonshire.

His great friend Peter Wordie, himself a leading business figure in the West of Scotland, recalls particularly Donald's powers of persuasion - a man of subtle wit and obvious integrity, he was a great recruiter of people for good causes.

The current Chairman of the National Trust for Scotland, Shonaig Macpherson, speaks of Colin Donald's kindness. In the week before he died, she says, he was "immersed in plans for the future of the trust".

Tam Dalyell

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living