Donaldson, John, 1788-1865

b. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1788 (bap. 5 January 1789); d. Edinburgh, 1865

Fourth Reid Professor of the Theory of Music at the University of Edinburgh

John Donaldson was a music teacher in Glasgow who trained as a lawyer and Scottish advocate and moved to Edinburgh in the 1820s.  He applied for the Reid Chair in 1839 and again in 1841, 1843 and was successful on the fourth occasion in 1845.   Donaldson’s interest was in the art and science of music and he established a museum of instruments, a music library and fought a legal battle with the University Authorities and the Town Council to have the Reid funds guaranteed on an ongoing basis for expenses associated with the Chair, the department, the annual concert and the building of the Reid School of the Theory of Music in 1858. 

In 1993 to mark the Centenary of the Faculty of Music,  Christopher D. S. Field, Dean of the Faculty, wrote the following short piece about Professor John Donaldson:

"After two rather unsuccessful appointments, the University in 1845 turned to a previous applicant to the chair  He was a musician better known as a teacher than composer, a  man they believed would bring stability to the chair.  They were to be proved wrong as John Donaldson proved to be more of a match for the University administration in fighting for the cause of inadequate funding and provision for music.  Donaldson's background was in the law, a most useful training for his post. 
Donaldson's major achievement was the creation of the 'Reid School of Music', getting the University to agree to the construction of the current Reid Concert Hall.  The building was completed in 1860 and contained a fine Hill & Sons organ.  Donaldson also managed to obtain funding for the purchase of musical instruments and books for the library.  During Donaldson's tenure there was much controversy concerning the allocation of tickets for the Reid Concerts, many of which he insisted on giving away to people of his choice.  The controversy was a sign of how important a part the Reid Concert series was beginning to play in the musical life of the city."

Further information will be posted here in due course

Information about the annual Reid concerts during the professorship of John Donaldson, is sketchy and incomplete. 
There are very few printed programmes available and much of the information on the Reid Concerts database has been pieced together from press reports. 
For some of the years between 1846 and 1866 there is, as yet, no known extant information about the content of the annual concert programmes.

Period in office: 

1788 Born Newcastle-upon-Tyne
from c.1811 music teacher in Glasgow
1816 while living in Glasgow opened a Logierian academy, having studied J. B. Logier's music teaching methods on a visit to Dublin.
1820 married Dorothea Finlay
1820s student of Scottish law
1822 published his piano sonata in G minor (dedicated to Clementi)
1823 matriculated in Law at the University of Oxford
1826 admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh
1839 unsuccessful application for the new chair of Music at the University of Edinburgh
1841 resident at 12 Rutland Street, Edinburgh, identified on the census as an advocate
1845 applied again for the Reid chair and was appointed as the fourth Professor of the Theory of Music at the University of Edinburgh
1850s negotiated with the Town Council and the University of Edinburgh for Reid bequest funds to be used for the building of the Reid School of Music
1858 Foundation stone laid for the Reid School of Music
1861 resident at Marchfield, nr Cramond, Edinburgh, listed on the census as an advocate attending Parliament Ho. and as Professor of Music
1861 granted a civil-list pension of £75
1865 died at his home, Marchfield, nr. Cramond, Edinburgh, 12 August