James Donald was born 'near Paisley', circa 1852.
Donald commenced independent practice at 22 Caledonia Street Paisley in 1881 and quickly found his way into Liberal Party circles. He was elected to the local executive committee of the Liberal Party Association in 1886, and in the same year was commissioned to design the Paisley Liberal Club.
He designed and built his own house 'Dunraven' on Arkleston Road. He was admitted a member of the Liberal Club in 1890, served on its general committee and became its vice-president,.He also served on Paisley Town Council to which he was elected in 1886, representing the newly created 6th (Abercorn) ward until his retirement in 1912.