Donald Brothers Ltd., Furnishing Fabrics Manufacturers, Dundee

Scope and Content

Records of directors, shareholding, administration, finance, pattern design, sales, staff, property, marketing and public relations, photographs and relations with external bodies.

Administrative / Biographical History

The founder of the firm was James Donald, a tailor from Kirkton of Lundie born in 1780. In 1829 he built Pitalpin works and Mansion House in Lochee for flax spinning and weaving, running the business with son James as Donald and Son. In the 1850s the firm went bankrupt. However, their fortunes recovered and in 1862 James junior built the James Park Factory in Albert Street, Dundee. When he retired in 1864 the firm was renamed Donald Brothers and run by sons James, David and John Donald. By 1900, according to Kelly's Directory, they were producing jute, linen and hemp fabrics primarily for industrial use.

However, the firm was already suffering from a slump in in the domestic jute industry. By the late 1890s the firm had began to diversify by producing plain and figured rugged linen and canvas fabrics for domestic use. One of the earliest successes was providing textile wall coverings for museums. A further turning point for the firm was the return of Francis James Donald from India in 1900 having been running a tea plantation. His brother David had been ill for some time, and indeed died in 1906, and Bernard was less interested in running the business. They exported to the Continent, New Zealand, Australia and the United States, most significantly to Arts and Crafts furniture designer Gustav Stickley. Their Art fabrics were extensively used within Art galleries and the Arts & Crafts interior in Britain and America between 1896-1914. Woven fabrics were manufactured by Lockharts of Kircaldy. Printed linens featured William Morris influenced designs and some were designed by Silver Studios.

In 1924 a Limited Company was formed with Directors Francis Donald, Edmond Archer who managed the London office and Wallace Ellison of Frances Stevenson and Sons, Dundee. In 1924 the Glamis Road factory was acquired and they gained international recognition for their printed fabrics marketed under the trade name Old Glamis Fabrics which was founded in 1926. Best known for high quality woven linen furnishings, their range include textured weaves, jacquard woven tapestries and prints. Many designs were produced by artists who also designed textiles such as Marion Dorn and Bernard Adeney. This reflected a general movement after the First World War to integrate art into industry. The firm received a Royal Warrant in 1934 in recognition of the high quality of their work.

The factory was extended in the 1950s to increase production. Woven and printed fabrics were used in ocean liners and large hotels. However, by 1976 the company was experiencing financial problems and William Halley and Sons bought the firm over. In 1984 production was moved to Wallace Craigie works and the Glamis Road factory was closed.


Chronologically by classification scheme

Access Information

By appointment at the Scottish Borders Campus, Netherdale, Galashiels.

Acquisition Information

When the company was bought over, the records were offered to the Scottish College of Textiles and collected by Ronald Moore, former Weaving Lecturer at the Scottish College of Textiles. Two trips were made, salvaging records which had been designated for destruction. Records were later officially listed as part of the Archive by the Business Archives Council (Scotland) Surveying Officer in 1988. Additional deposits have been received in the 1990s and in 2006.

Other Finding Aids

Paper finding aid is available in the search room.

Archivist's Note

Revised description created by Helen Taylor, Archivist, Heriot-Watt University.



Related Material

Volumes of jacquard fabric created by Lockharts of Kircaldy are held at Glasgow School of Art. Donald Brothers fabric samples are also held at the Whitworth Museum, Manchester and Victoria and Albert Museum.

Location of Originals

The collection is mainly original. However, there are some photocopies of business records still held by the Donald family.


The emergence of Donald Brothers as manufacturers of decorative fabrics: the feel for rugged texture PhD Thesis by Helen Douglas, Edinburgh University 1997.

The Architect of Floors; Modernism, Art and Marion Dorn Designs. Christine Boydell. Published Schoeser 1996. Available in the Archive.

Bold Impressions; Block Printing 1910-1950 exhibition catalogue published by Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Available in the Archive.

British Textile Designers Today by H.G. Hayes Marshall published by F. Lewis, Leigh-on-Sea, 1939. How Donald Brothers stay small and influence people by Margaret Duckett. An in the journal Design, February 1970

The Silver Studio Collection: A London Design Studio 1880-1963 Lund Humphries: London for Middlesex Polytechnic