Papers of Kay Carmichael, 1925-2009, policy advisor, activist and lecturer, University of Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Personal papers, 1955-2009;
  • Kay's writing and related papers, 1977-2010;
  • Research notes, including press cuttings, article reprints, 1958-2011;
  • Pamphlets, c1880-2000s;
  • Photographs, c1950-2008;
  • Audio cassette tapes, late 20th century-2000s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Catherine 'Kay' MacIntosh Carmichael (nee Rankin) was a social reformer and policy adviser who was a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Study (later the Department of Social Work and Social Administration). She was responsible for developing the UK's first training programme for probation officers.

Born in Glasgow's east end in 1925, she experienced a difficult childhood, partly due to her parents' fragile marriage and partly also to her contracting polio, which resulted in her spending a long period in hospital and only gradually recovering the use of her limbs. This left her with a slight disability which was well disguised, but the effects remained with her in later life. A harsh convent school education had the saving grace that it encouraged her to become an avid reader. Wartime evacuation to Dumfries provided relief before a return to Glasgow and somewhat irregular schooling, which was supplemented by visits to the Tollcross public library and a voracious reading programme.

She gained a social work diploma from Edinburgh University and became a psychiatric social worker in the late 1950s, working with inmates and wardens in prisons and borstals in an attempt to reassess the conditions there and try to put policies in place to offer help and rehabilitation to offenders.

She was appointed a Social casework tutor at the University's School of Social study in 1963 becoming a lecturer in 1967, a senior lecturer in 1974 and an honorary lecturer in 1981. She was a well respected and influential teacher who inspired her students by her determination to fight for social justice.

She was an active member of the Labour Party for around 50 years and spent a lot of her time campaigning for the rights of minority groups and against nuclear war and weapons. Having married Neil Carmichael, Glasgow Labour MP in 1948, the marriage was later dissolved and she married Professor David Donnison in 1987.

When Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party in 1994 she resigned her membership and latterly, after a spell in the Scottish Socialist Party, she became an active member of the Scottish National Party.

She graduated with a PhD from Glasgow in 2001 when she was 76 years old. Her thesis was titled 'A Post-Christian Perception of Sin and Forgiveness'. She died on 26 December 2009.


Listed by box.

Access Information

Access to certain records within this collection is restricted in accordance with data protection legislation as they contain information about potentially living individuals. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

Acquisition Information

Gift : David Donnison : 3 Aug 2017 : ACCN 4115

Other Finding Aids

See also University of Glasgow Collections

File list available. Please email Archives & Special Collections to request a copy:

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Applications for permission to quote should be sent to Archives & Special Collections, please email:

Appraisal Information

This material has not yet been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History

The collection was held by Kay Carmichael and following her death ownership was passed on to David Donnison and Kay's daughter.


None expected

Related Material

Kay's University of Glasgow PhD thesis is available online:

Location of Originals

This material is original

Corporate Names

Geographical Names