John McDonald

Wright

John McDonald (1874–1964) was a Glasgow housebuilder and contractor. He was born in Bridgeton, son of a leather worker. 1 He went into business with joiner Robert A. Graham at 78–80 Adelphi Street, Tradeston, but the partnership was terminated after a short time in 1899. McDonald retained the firm, prospered, and opened offices in Old Dalmarnock Road, in the east of the city, around 1910. 2 By 1915 he had built 'Elpalet' ('castellated Gothic villa ... whitewashed render', now listed) in Carmunnock for himself. 3

In 1919, in a characteristically innovative move, McDonald publicised the 'Sunlit Standard Building Company', later the 'Sunlit Building Co.', which prefabricated to order, and used an elaborate radiant-sun trademark. 4 In 1928 they advertised multi-purpose flat roofs for putting greens, gymnasia, and rifle ranges. 5 As part of a campaign during the 1920s and 30s to address the city's serious housing shortage, the firm constructed many of Glasgow Council's peripheral public-housing schemes, including Knightswood (1924–8), Yoker (1928), Carntyne (1933), Cardonald and Hillington (1933–5). 6 McDonald purchased the small private estate of Kilmardinny, Bearsden, in 1932. He intended to live in the Victorian mansion, and develop the 117-acre grounds with his son, builder John Robert Harrison McDonald (b. 1907). 7 The McDonalds had already experimented with flat roofs, cavity walls, and 'prefabricated bricks'. 8 They combined their shared enthusiasm for new technologies and modern design in the mid-1930s 'International Style' private homes in Carse View Drive, Bearsden. 9

McDonald was knighted in 1937, by which time he was a government advisor on road haulage and President of the Scottish Commercial Motor Transport Users' Association. 10

Notes:

1: ‘McDonald, Sir John’, Who Was Who, A. & C. Black, 1920–2008, Online Edition, Oxford University Press, December 2007, www.ukwhoswho.com/view/article/oupww/whowaswho/U54289 [accessed 6 October 2012]; Glasgow Herald, 3 February 1964, p. 8.

2: Edinburgh Gazette, 4 August 1899, p. 761; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1899–1900, p. 253; 1910–11, p. 410.

3: '250 East Kilbride Road, Elpalet, Carmunnock', Historic Scotland Listing Description, Historic Scotland Building ID: 33717, R.C.A.H.M.S. Canmore ID 228204, British Listed Buildings Independent Online Database, at www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk [accessed 6 October 2012]; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1915–16, p. 403 (misprinted 'Elpaber').

4: Glasgow Post Office Directory , 1919–20, p. 392.

5: Glasgow Corporation, Glasgow Commercially Considered, Glasgow: Kelvingrove Publishing, 1928, Advertising Appendix, p. i; Charles McKean, The Scottish Thirties, Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1987, p. 46, note 109.

6: Glasgow Herald, 3 February 1964, p. 8; J. L. MacKenzie, Glasgow: ... Municipal Undertakings, Glasgow: The Corporation, 1938, pp. 191–214; Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches and Malcolm Higgs, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, London: Penguin, 1990, pp. 74–5, 440; Glasgow Section, Telephone Directories, vol. 5 (Glasgow/Edinburgh/Dundee), 1920-46, in 'British Phone Books 1880-1984', online database, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 6 October 2012].

7: The Times, 12 November 1932, p. 21F, Birth information, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [accessed 6 October 2012]; 'J. R. H. McDonald, Biography Report', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 5 November 2012].

8: Glasgow Herald, 1 February 1937, p. 12; 'John McDonald (Contractors) Ltd' in 'Some Glasgow Businesses', Glasgow Commercially Considered, Glasgow: Kelvingrove Publishing, 1928, p. 'H'; '(Sir) John McDonald, Biography Report', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 5 November 2012].

9: Charles McKean, The Scottish Thirties, Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1987, pp. 171–3; John Gifford and F. A. Walker, The Buildings of Scotland: Stirling and Central Scotland, London: Yale University Press, 2002, pp. 89, 221.

10: Scotsman, 1 February 1937, p. 7; Glasgow Herald, 3 February 1964, p. 8.