Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Alexander Beith McDonald

As City Engineer from 1890, Alexander Beith McDonald was responsible for planning and designing most of Glasgow Corporation's public buildings and works until he retired in 1914.

Born in Stirling, his father was a glazier and town councillor. He was apprenticed to Glasgow Civil Engineers Smith & McWharrie in 1862 and studied engineering, natural philosophy and mathematics at Glasgow University.

He joined the City Architect's office in 1870, under John Carrick, assisting in the City Improvement Trust's work and the building of tenements, baths, washhouses, markets, police offices and fire stations.

He used statuary sparingly, but most of his buildings are distinguished by splendid armorial bearings affirming the power and authority of the Corporation and revealing the adaptability of the city's arms to imaginative sculptural treatment.

Among his many designs are: the People's Palace, Glasgow Green (1893-8); the Prince of Wales Bridge, Kelvingrove Park (1894); Sanitary Chambers (now GCC Environmental Health Dept.) 23-5 Montrose Street (1894-7); Ruchill Hospital (1900) and the gates and lodges, Botanic Gardens (1904).

In the early 1900s, he was joint assessor of the city's District Libraries competitions, with H K Bromhead, the results of which aroused the suspitions of the architectural fraternity after the winner in the majority of the competitions was revealed as McDonald's assistant, JR Rhind .

McDonald went on to produce Glasgow's most sculptural bridge, Radnor Street Bridge (now known as Kelvin Way Bridge) in Kelvingrove Park (1914-24), which acquired its bronze sculpture groups from P R Montford long after McDonald's death.

Another sculpturally distinguished project from the end of his career is the former Police Office and Fire Station, 180 Centre Street (1914-16), which features a fine array of sculpted pediments with trophies comprising Firemen's helmets and equipment, such as an axe, hose and hydrant key.

Also responsible for planning the re-organisation of Cathedral Square, he designed the boundary walls and gardens at the south front of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (1914).

Living at 29 Kersland Street, he died after falling from a tramcar in Sauchiehall Street and was buried in the Western Necropolis.


  • The Bailie, 25 November, 1896;
  • The Bailie, 4 May, 1910;
  • GH [Obit], 2 November, 1915;
  • BN [Obit], vol 108, 10 November, 1915.
Works in our Database:
1: Bell Street (Merchant City),
Former Fruit Market, at junction with Candleriggs
Athena, Six Bacchic Keystone Masks and Associated Decorative Carving (1907)
Sculptor: unknown; Architect: AB McDonald
2: Centre Street (Kingston),
Former South Side Fire Station, 180 Centre Street
Pediment Reliefs (1914-16)
Sculptor: unknown; Architect: AB McDonald
3: Glasgow Green (Calton),
The People's Palace Museum
Nine Allegorical Figures (1894-8)
Sculptors: WK Brown (figures); JH Mackinnon (decorative work);
Architect: AB McDonald; Masons: Morrison & Muir
4: Ingram Street (Merchant),
Former Central Fire Station, 23-33 Ingram Street
Masks, Firefighter's Tools and Helmets (1898-1900)
Sculptor: unknown; Architect: AB McDonald
#198 5: Kelvingrove Park (West End),
Kelvin Way Bridge
Allegorical Figure Groups (1914-24)
Sculptor: PR Montford; Architect: AB McDonald;
Foundry: AB Burton; Builder: John Emery & Sons
6: Langside Avenue (Shawlands),
Langside Public Halls, 1 Langside Avenue
Allegorical Figures of Commerce and Plenty and Related Decorative Carving (1847; rebuilt 1902-3)
Sculptor: J Thomas; Architects: John Gibson; rebuilt by AB McDonald
7: Montrose Street (Merchant City),
Former Sanitary Chambers, now Department of Environmental Health, 23-5 Montrose Street
Hygieia (c.1894-7)
Sculptor: WK Brown; Architect: AB McDonald; Builder: Alexander Thomson & Son
8: Oxford Street (Gorbals),
Strathclyde Police Training Centre
Blindfold Justice and Fasces Crossed With Swords (1892-5)
Sculptor: unknown; Architect: AB McDonald
#310 9: Turnbull Street (Calton),
Former Central Police Office, now Glasgow District Court, 54 Turnbull street
Allegorical Figures of Law and Justice and Associated Decorative Carving (1903-6)
Sculptor: R Ferris;
Architect: AB McDonald; Masons: William Steven & Son
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