Donald Macmillan


Born: 8 February 1856 in Kintail, Scotland
Died: ??

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Donald Macmillan (or McMillan or M'Millan) was born the Schoolhouse in Kintail. This is a beautiful area of the Scottish Highlands, north of Fort William on the road to the Isle of Skye. It is fairly near to the west coast of the Scottish mainland. His father was John McMillan, the Parish schoolmaster and also the local registrar, and his mother was Eliza McDougall. Donald became a student at Aberdeen University, graduating with an M.A. in 1876.

Macmillan became Principal of Clifton Bank School, St Andrews. We should give a few details about this school. The main school in St Andrews was (and still is) Madras College, founded by Dr Andrew Bell in 1832. The school had many boarders and there were houses around the town for them run by masters at the school. John Paterson came to Madras College as an assistant master in 1851 and ran one of these boarding houses with the assistance of a Mr Pennycook who he employed as a tutor. In 1856 Paterson resigned his position as a Madras master "because of the extent to which his boarding establishment has increased". He then ran his boarding house as the independent Clifton Bank School. In 1881 Paterson became Provost of St Andrews but continued in his role as Headmaster of the School. Certainly the school was highly successful and it was advertised in 1884 as:-

For the Board and Education of Gentlemen's Sons.

Macmillan was working at Clifton Bank School by 1887 for in that year he joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society giving the School as his address. We assume that at this stage he was an assistant to Paterson. In 1892 Macmillan took over as Headmaster of the School and he employed Robert Lawson as his assistant. A typical advertisement for the School dating from that period is from August 1894:

CLIFTON BANK SCHOOL.
ST ANDREWS
Boarding School for Boys
D. M'Millan, M.A., Headmaster
Pupils are prepared for the Universities and similar Examinations.
SCHOOL REOPENS ON TUESDAY, 2nd OCTOBER

Macmillan encouraged "recreative diversion on a most liberal scale," using extensive playing fields besides the Links for the purposes of rugby, cricket and hockey. Boys at Clifton Bank were sent to the golf course three times a week, and sea-bathing was compulsory during the summer months. Clearly the boys became excellent sportsmen as can be seen from many newspaper reports where Clifton Bank has triumphed at rugby or cricket over schools from Fife, Perth, Dundee, and Edinburgh. In 1904 Walter G Mair took over as headmaster of Clifton Bank and his name appears in place of those of Macmillan in advertisements from that time on.

As we noted above, Macmillan joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in March 1887 when the Society was in its sixth session, four years after it was founded. He remained a member of the Society until 1906.

After he retired as Principal of Clifton Bank School, St Andrews, Macmillan went to live in the village of Newton of Falkland in Fife. We can find no record of his death in Scotland, although this could just be due to the fact that the name Donald Macmillan is a very common one.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson


Mathematicians born in the same country


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JOC/EFR November 2007
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School of Mathematics and Statistics
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