Colonel Donald James Mackintosh

Biography of Colonel Donald James Mackintosh

Donald James Mackintosh was born to Donald and Agnes Mackintosh (née Dawson) in Shotts, Lanarkshire, on the 13th of January 1862. His father was headmaster of Dykehead School in the town, which Donald J. Mackintosh attended as a child. From there he went to Madras College, St. Andrews.

In 1878 Mackintosh began his medical studies at the University of Glasgow. A string of second-class prize certificates in subjects such as Materia Medica, Practical Physiology, and Practical Zoology accumulated during his time at university indicate that he was an above- student. On the 31st of July 1884 he graduated MB CM.

After graduating he worked at the Glasgow Eye Infirmary and Belvidere Infectious Diseases Hospital. In 1890 he became Medical Superintendent of the newly-established Victoria Infirmary: the beginning of his highly-acclaimed career in medical administration. From there he moved to become Medical Superintendent of the Western Infirmary in 1894 – a role he held until 1937.

It was also in 1894 that Mackintosh married Margaret Fullarton. They had two children together: Donald and Anna.

Mackintosh’s tenure at the Western earned him an international reputation in the field of hospital administration, and in recognition of his contributions he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (LLD) from the University of Glasgow on the 25th of June 1912.

In addition to his administrative duties, Mackintosh was amongst the first doctors to experiment with the use of X-Rays. In 1899 he published the Skiagraphic atlas of fractures and dislocations, which became a commonly used medical textbook.

Mackintosh first became involved with military hospitals during the Boer War of 1899-1902, when he managed the logistics of the Scottish National Red Cross Hospital at Kroonstadt. For this he received a mention in despatches and in 1902 was made a Member of the Victorian Order. In peacetime he continued his involvement in military medical administration, rising first from Lieutenant-Colonel in command of the 3rd Scottish General Hospital to Colonel in the Army Medical Corps (Territorial Forces). In April 1912 he was again promoted, to Assistant Director of Medical Services of the Lowland Division – a post he held until August 1916.

With the outbreak of the First World War Mackintosh took on a greater role in military hospital administration. By November 1914 he was responsible for the supervision of all military, war, and territorial general hospitals in the Glasgow area. In August 1916 he was transferred to Army Medical Services, Territorial Force Reserve, performing similar duties. In January 1917 he received both a Mention in Despatches of his ‘distinguished services’ and Membership of the Companions of the Order of the Bath. Even decades after the war, staff always referred to him as Colonel Mackintosh.

Personal tragedy overshadowed honours and professional triumph for Mackintosh: at the Battle of Arras in April 1917 his only son, Lt. Donald Mackintosh, died. Donald Mackintosh had continued to command his soldiers after sustaining multiple wounds, and was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Donald James Mackintosh was deeply affected by his son’s death; shortly afterwards he was released from his duties in Glasgow for three months, instead advising the War Office on the operation of military hospitals.

In December 1925 two memorial windows dedicated to the memory of Mackintosh’s son were unveiled in the Western Infirmary’s chapel. His obituary writer in the Glasgow Medical Journal noted that it was ‘a chapel of which he was very proud and in the adornment of which he took almost a paternal interest.’

Mackintosh remained Superintendent of the Western Infirmary until ill health forced his retirement in September 1937. He died on the 12th of June 1947, aged 85. On the day of his funeral a memorial service was also held in the Western Infirmary chapel.

For more information on Donald Mackintosh’s medical career, see his University Story page.


Colonel Donald James Mackintosh
Rank: Colonel
Regiment: Royal Army Medical Corps - Assistant Director Of Medical Services for Lowland Divisional Area of Sco
Degree: MB CM; LLD (Honorary)
Awards: MVO, Companion of the Order of the Bath, Mentioned in Despatches
Comments: Father of 2nd Lieutenant Donald Mackintosh, Seaforth Highlanders.
Note/Press Clipping: N/A
Photo ID: N/A


Family's papers at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Archives: reference HB6/12

Obituary in Glasgow Medical Journal, Vol. 28, 1947, pp.228-231

Obituary in British Medical Journal, 21 June 1947, p.904

Obituary in The Lancet, 28 June 1949, p. 930

MacQueen, Loudon, & Kerr, Archibald, The Western Infirmary 1874 - 1974, Glasgow: John Horn, 1974, pp.68-87

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