Bristo Port

On the last Saturday of March 2023 my son Andrew and his partner Charlotte graduated from the University of Edinburgh. Their degrees were awarded in McEwan Hall:

After the graduation ceremony we walked down Bristo Place to a restaurant on George IV Bridge. We passed by this shop front [one that had taken me 55 years to notice]:

Looking round the corner, into Bristo Port, I could just make out ‘ghost writing’ on the wall:

I was beginning to realise [belatedly so] that this China Merchant had  been quite an enterprise:

John Donald & Co occupied the whole corner of Bristo Place and Bristo Port:

1860 advert:

1864 advert:

1869 advert:

1871 advert:

1904 advert:

1907 advert:

A sketch of John Donald & Co, China Merchants [c1910]:

Bristo Port has been a ‘corner of all things’ for many centuries:

Incorporated into the basement of John Donald & Co, indeed holding the china warehouse  up, is a portion of the ancient Flodden wall of Edinburgh:

CANMORE archive provides a number of images of John Donald & Co:

So who was John Donald?:

John Donald was born in Ireland but it was Scotland that was to be his lifelong home. In his boyhood he was a Blantyre school companion of David Livingstone. He later trained under the tuition of Robert Owen, New Lanark.:

In December 1887, John Donald died from a weak heart in his family home, 3 Lauder Road, Edinburgh:

His estate was shared between his widow and children [two of his sons, Archibald and John Quin, were medical doctors]:

Archibald  Donald was a pioneering Gynaecological surgeon:

Dr John Quin Donald specialised in addiction:

May 1904:

September 1906:

April 1907:

May 1909:

May 1909:

Backdrop: Some of the personal details for Dr John Quin Donald:

John Quin Donald married Helen Middlemass in November 1881. Two of their children, Robert and Duncan were born in Edinburgh. There was a “correction” to the marriage certificate stating that they were divorced in 1891. However, five more children were born, three in Missouri and two in Massachusetts; the last two being after 1891, so there was presumably a reconciliation.

The 1900 Census reveals that he lived with his family in Gloucester city, Massachusetts.

November 1891:

June 1908, Dr John Quin Donald marries for second time [He is three decades older than his new wife, who is just 22 years old]:

May 1912:

January 1922:

March 1929, death of Dr John Quin Donald [his nephew seems to have been the only family member present]:

BRISTO PORT: the corner of all things: