DONALDSON, St Clair George Alfred (1863-1935)

DONALDSON, St Clair George Alfred (1863-1935)
first anglican archbishop of Brisbane
was the son of Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson (q.v.) and his wife Amelia Cowper. He was born at London on 11 February 1863 and was educated at Eton, where he rowed in the eight, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He just missed representing Cambridge in the 1883 boat race, when having been selected stroke of the crew he fell ill and was forbidden to row by the doctors. (The University Boat Race Official Centenary History, p. 84.) He graduated B.A. in 1885 with a first class in classics and obtained a first class in theology in 1887. He was ordained deacon in 1888 and priest in 1889. After a short period as a curate at Bethnal Green he was a domestic chaplain to archbishop Benson from 1888 to 1891. Becoming vicar of St Mary's, Hackney Wick, in 1891, he was head of the Eton mission until 1900 and rural dean of Hornsey from 1902 to 1904. When only 41 years of age he was chosen to be bishop of Brisbane, was consecrated on 28 October 1904, and arrived at Brisbane on 19 December.
When Donaldson began his episcopate he found that over £30,000 was in hand for the building of St John's cathedral. He immediately set to work to raise the remaining necessary funds, and six years later the cathedral was consecrated. In 1905 the five dioceses in Queensland and New Guinea were formed into a province, and Donaldson became archbishop of Brisbane. He interested himself especially in the development of the theological college, in religions instruction in schools, and in the founding of church schools. He gave much time and thought to the diocesan war memorial, which eventually took the form of St Martin's hospital near the cathedral. About £100,000 was raised for this including a gift of £1000 from Donaldson himself. He also spoke strongly on the question of justice to the aborigines, urging that a large tract of land should be handed to them which whites should not be allowed to occupy. During his episcopate of 17 years the number of clergy increased from 55 to well over 100. In 1921 he was appointed bishop of Salisbury, and on his return to England was pronounced by Arthur Benson to be "a very fine, simple-minded, robust, sensible prelate". At Salisbury as at Brisbane he became the trusted friend of his clergy and no parish was too isolated to be visited. He did excellent work in convocation and was for many years chairman of the board of missions. He had a difficult task as chairman of the joint committee of the Canterbury convocation on "The Church and Marriage", which sat from 1931 to 1935 and thoroughly tested his great patience, tolerance, and practical wisdom. He died suddenly at Salisbury on 7 December 1935. He was unmarried. In 1933 he was appointed by the king a prelate of the order of St Michael and St George. He held the honorary degrees of D.D. of Oxford and Cambridge, and D.C.L. Durham. After leaving Australia he retained his interest in his old diocese and continued to make liberal monetary contributions to its needs. Under his will £4000 was left to endowment funds of the Brisbane diocese.
Donaldson was greatly loved both at Brisbane and Salisbury; it was said of him that he "was indefatigable in public work, wholly delightful in private friendship". He had much common sense, good humour, and a gift of sympathy which did not extend itself to men who were greatly interested in themselves or their career; but Donaldson was not much interested in his own career. His real interest was in getting things done in the individual parish, the diocese, or the province. The suggestion that he was not intellectually brilliant brought the reply from one who knew him well, that when he spoke he showed so masterly a grasp that thinking hearers often apprehended clearly for the first time the question or problem before them. To these qualities may be added great humility, deep spirituality, and devotion.
C. T. Dimont and F. de Witt Batty, St Clair Donaldson; The Times, 9, 11, 12 December 1935, 25 January 1936; The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 9 December 1935.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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