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John Donald Photograph Collection

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y3031O

Scope and Contents

326 photographs of varying formats, many uncaptioned.

The earliest photographs document James Donald’s life in Malaya during the 1920s, and include images of the Perak River Estate where he first worked, the Torkington Estate, the Batu Anan Club, and friends, colleagues, travel and recreational activities, including the Lower Perak Football Team of 1923. The bulk of the collection records the family’s years on the Arcadia Estate, and especially the period from John Donald’s birth in 1935 to 1941. There are also some images from the immediate post-war period before James Donald’s retirement in 1950. Subjects include the Arcadia bungalow, domestic and family scenes, Fraser’s Hill where John Donald was educated, holidays, friends and neighbours. The latter half of the collection contains photographs illustrating the management of the estate, which had been planted with coconut in 1912. James Donald did much to open up the estate during his tenure as manager. There are images of cultivation, livestock, machinery, buildings, canals, the launches which connected the estate to Bagan Datoh via the Perak River, sampans used to transport coconuts, and the estate’s work force. The most recent photographs depict the Larong Estate during 1951 with the caption that it was burnt during the Malayan Emergency.

In addition to the photographs, there is a small file of correspondence, telegrams and postcards exchanged between the Donald family and St Margaret’s School during 1941(15 sheets and 14 postcards). They relate to Donald’s travel to meet his uncle (including a letter describing his rescue from the night train at Paloh), his evacuation to Australia, and the family’s return to Scotland. It contains a passenger identification card for his mother Ethel Donald, dated 1943. The collection also includes Donald’s cap and crest from St Margaret’s School.


  • Creation: 1920 - 1951

Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Dr John Gordon Donald was born in Batu Gajah, Perak, in 1935. His father, James D. Donald, had travelled to Malaya in 1921 and worked as manager of several estates, retiring from the Arcadia estate in 1950. Donald’s early childhood was spent in Malaya and he was educated at St Margaret’s School, Fraser’s Hill. During the Second World War, his parents were on leave in Australia when the Japanese invaded Malaya in Dec. 1941. Donald joined his uncle Abercromby Donald’s family in Paloh, Johore soon after. With the Japanese rapidly advancing, plans were made to evacuate women and children. Donald escaped from Singapore by ship with his aunt and two cousins on 1 Jan. 1942. His uncle was captured by the Japanese following their conquest of Singapore and interned in Java. Donald’s ship sailed to Melbourne, where he was re-united with his parents. The family spent 15 months in Victoria, moving to wherever James Donald could find work. In Mar. 1943, they returned to the United Kingdom to join Donald’s two sisters, who had been separated from their family for five years, arriving in Fife in May. Donald later studied medicine at Aberdeen University and worked as an obstetrician and gynaecologist.


326 item(s) (326 images) : paper/photograph

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

good condition

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Dr John Gordon Donald in 2009.


Donald, John Gordon, 1935-, medical doctor

Includes index.
2014-06-04 12:21:56+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom