Donald Russell Findlay[1] QC (born 17 March 1951) is an advocate and Queen's Counsel in Scotland. He has also held positions as a vice-chairman of Rangers Football Club and twice Rector of the University of St Andrews. He is now chairman of Cowdenbeath Football Club.

He is well known for a distinctive style of dress and manner, particularly the smoking of a pipe, as well as his staunch support for Unionism in Scotland and the Scottish Conservatives. He has faced some controversy over several incidents where he sang songs and told allegedly sectarian jokes.[2][3][4][5][6]

Personal life

Donald Findlay was born on 17 March 1951 in Cowdenbeath, Fife, the son of a church beadle. He was subsequently educated at Harris Academy in Dundee, and later at the University of Dundee and at the University of Glasgow. His academic links with the University of St Andrews (of which Dundee was once part) saw him elected as Lord Rector in 1993 and again in 1996. After his retirement from this position, he took the position of Chancellor of the University's Strafford Club. St Andrews, allegedly, dropped plans to award him an honorary degree after one of his controversial outbursts. At this time, he was also noted to be suffering from severe depression and later revealed that he had contemplated suicide.[7]

Findlay is an atheist.[8] In the mid-1990s he left his third wife Jennie to set up house with the Reporting Scotland television reporter Paddy Christie. This relationship later foundered.[9]

In May 2011, Findlay was sent a parcel in the post to Cowdenbeath football club where he is chairman.[10] Initially it was thought to contain a bomb but it was later revealed to contain a knife.[10]


As a boy, Findlay was influenced to become a lawyer by following the trial of Peter Manuel and by watching the TV series Boyd Q.C..[11]

A combination of high-profile controversies, acute legal skills and a well-cultivated image has generated Findlay a lot of coverage in the Scottish press in recent years and he now has one of the highest legal profiles in Scotland and widely considered to be Scotland's premier criminal law advocate.[8] He took silk, becoming a Queen's Counsel in 1988,[12] but his behaviour has been censured by the Faculty of Advocates on more than one occasion (see below). He has served as a defence lawyer in many high-profile murder cases including Jodi Jones, Mark Scott and the Kriss Donald murder trials. He represented Peter Tobin, the murderer of Angelika Kluk in the so-called "body in the church" case.[13] Findlay is a member of the Mackinnon stables.

At present, he is also a noted after-dinner speaker[8] and in 1997 was a high-profile campaigner on behalf of the unsuccessful Think Twice campaign which supported a double-no vote in the Scottish devolution referendum.

In 2006, he was a defence counsel in the trial of Mohammed Atif Siddique, which saw the youth sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for collecting and sharing online information about terrorists. Donald Findlay successfully appealed this conviction in January 2010. In April 2010 following an eight-week trial he secured the acquittal of the English solicitor Marshall Ronald in the infamous Da Vinci recovery trial.

Glasgow based newspaper Daily Record reported that Donald Findlay was one of the highest paid lawyers in 2007, earning £350,000 from his high-profile cases.

In June 2010 Findlay was elected chairman of the Faculty of Advocates Criminal Bar Association.[14]

He also owned a Rangers supporter's bar in Singapore named " The Sportsman" later sold in 2011 but may still have some shares in the company, where his photo still hangs on the wall warning customers that no credit is given[citation needed].


Findlay is an atheist, but is mostly noted in Scotland for his support of Rangers, a historically Protestant football club, and for engaging in controversial behaviour that has been widely interpreted as being anti-Catholic in nature.[2][3][4][5][6][15] In May 1999 he was accused of sectarianism, after being filmed singing The Sash at a private party organised by a Rangers Supporters Club.[16] For his role in this event, Findlay resigned from the board.[17] After this incident Findlay admitted to feeling so pursued by the media portrayal of him that he had considered suicide.[18]

In May 2005, shortly after the death of Pope John Paul II, while speaking at Larne Rangers Social Club in Northern Ireland he said "It's very smoky in here tonight – has another f***ing Pope died?" The Scotsman reported that he went on to tell a vulgar joke about a nun, while The Herald reported that his routine was "alleged to have been littered with obscenities and jokes about Catholics" although Findlay has stated that he also made jokes about Protestantism and about the Protestant clergyman and politician Ian Paisley.[19] It is believed that the Faculty of Advocates passed a vote of no confidence on him following the controversy over his comments.[20] He was also fined £3,500 by the Faculty of Advocates.

Findlay was cleared of an allegation of misconduct before the Faculty of Advocates in 2007[21] following a complaint regarding his conduct at the Rangers Supporters Club in Larne and contribution to a book entitled How Soccer Explains The World – An Unlikely Theory of Globalisation.[22]


  1. ^ "Donald R Russell, Esq, QC". Debrett's People of Today. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Leading QC pays price for anti-Catholic gaffe... yet again". Belfast Telegraph. 6 June 2005. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  3. ^ a b "BBC News, Composer attacks anti-Catholic bigots". 9 August 1999. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  4. ^ a b "International Herald Tribune Why Mixing Sport and Religious Intolerance Cannot Be Forgiven". Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  5. ^ a b Haldenby, Andrew. "Daily Telegraph: Findlay faces tribunal over sectarian songs". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 28 September 2005. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  6. ^ a b Mega, Marcello (14 January 2007). "The Scotsman: Sectarian jokes put QC's job on the line". Edinburgh. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  7. ^ Song row QC considered suicide, BBC News
  8. ^ a b c "The two faces of Donald Findlay, QC". The Scotsman. Johnston Publishing. 30 May 2005. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  9. ^ Abigail Wild, Has it all gone up in smoke?, Glasgow Herald, 20 June 2005; Retrieved 23 November 2009
  10. ^ a b "Suspicious package sent to Scottish club Cowdenbeath". BBC. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  11. ^ Allan Nicol Manuel: Scotland's First Serial Killer, Introduction
  12. ^ Mackinnon Stable clerks/webmaster. "Mackinnon Stable Members". Faculty of Advocates. Archived from the original on 7 May 2006. Retrieved 5 May 2007.
  13. ^ .Tobin guilty of Angelika's murder, BBC News
  14. ^ .Interview: Donald Findlay, QC, The Scotsman
  15. ^ "BBC News: The Bitter Divide". 2 June 1999. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  16. ^ "FINDLAY IN BIGOT RAP". Daily Record. Trinity Mirror. 15 January 2007. Archived from the original on 6 May 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  17. ^ "Spiers on Saturday: meeting Donald Findlay". Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  18. ^ Mcginty, Stephen (31 May 2005). "The two faces of Donald Findlay, QC". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  19. ^ "Reported by". Archived from the original on 19 October 2006. Retrieved 28 June 2006.
  20. ^ "Findlay quits over Pope joke". Retrieved 22 June 2006.
  21. ^ QC cleared over 'sectarian joke' BBC News, 2 July 2007
  22. ^ "'Sectarian jokes' put QC's job on the line". Scotland on Sunday. Johnston Publishing. 16 January 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Nicky Campbell
Rector of the University of St Andrews
Succeeded by
Andrew Neil