William Johnston (1779? - 1839)

Bookseller, stationer, printer and newpaper owner of Greenock, Scotland. Married Elizabeth Thomson at Greenock on 12 July 1800, and had nine children. Since William also writes in his will of his step-daughter Elizabeth McDonald Johnston, it may be that Elizabeth had previously been married to a Mr McDonald. William Johnston died in Greenock, 22 Dec 1839, leaving an estate valued at between £300 and £450. His widow Elizabeth, born approx. 1781, died at Upper Hermitage, Leith, on 1 Jan 1853 (Greenock Advertiser 4 Jan 1853).

William Johnston printed the first newspaper in Greenock (presumably the Greenock Advertiser, founded in 1802. (It seems to have ceased publication in 1880.)

The following are extracts from the Scottish Book Trade Index (SBTI).
(Hamilton Street, once the main street in town, has been built over and is now a shopping mall.)

JOHNSTON, Kerr bookseller and stationer Greenock
46 Hamilton Street
Fowler 1834; 1836

JOHNSTON, William printer Greenock
14 Hamilton street
and newspaper printer Commercial Clyde List, Hamilton Street 1825
Schenck; Pigot 1820; 1825

JOHNSTON, William senior typographic and lithographic printer Greenock
46 Hamilton Street

William Johnston & Son
same address 1834-45

William Johnston
same address 1853-61

Bookseller and stationer same address 1868-75

The son seems to have been John Johnston 1834-53

Fowler 1831; 1834; 1836;
Greenock 1845; 1853; 1861; 1868; 1873; 1875

JOHNSTON, John lithographic printer Greenock
46 Hamilton Street
Greenock 1853
gives the address as 8 Hamilton Street.
Schenck; Fowler 1834;
1836; Pigot 1837;Fowler 1834;
1836; Slater 1852

The following is a summary of the children of the family; many of the births were registered at Greenock Old Parish.

Born Married Died Notes
William 19 Apr 1801 Margaret Williamson in Greenock OP, 2 June 1835 (he was 34, she about 22).
Children were: William Thomson b. 6 Apr 1836; George b. 6 Feb 1838, prob d. London 16 Apr 1906; Robert b. 28 Oct 1839 d. Mordialloc, Melbourne 16 Oct 1895; Jane b. 2 Oct 1841 d. 17 Oct 1882; Eliza(beth) b. 17 Jun 1843 m. Alexander Swan, engineer of Kinghorn, 4 Sep 1883; Margaret Caroline b. 21 Apr 1845 m. Andrew Clark Morton 26 Feb 1873; and John Williamson b. 9 Feb 1847 m. Bessie Gentle Wright 8 Oct 1874.
12 Jul 1847 in Inverkip. See transcript of probate document. "Writer" = "Writer to the Signet", i.e. solicitor (lawyer).
Daughter Margaret born at 19 Brougham Street, Greenock. Jane d. at 8 George Square. Eliza m. at 67 Union Street.
Robert 12 Aug 1802 Hannah b. Scarborough Yorks c. 1813
6 children
- Baptist minister at Well Lane Chapel, Beverley, Yorks., where he baptised his brother Kerr on 9 Apr 1848. In retirement (1871/181 censuse), lived in Hampstead
Margaret 27 May 1804 - - Must have died young; she is not mentioned in her father's will.
Janet 13 Mar 1806 Rev. Neil McKechnie of Printfield, Aberdeen (b. Argyll, presumably a native Gaelic speaker), on 15 Feb 1825 at Greenock (Greenock Advertiser 15.2.1825).
Eight or more children.
- In 1851, family living in Stuartfield, a village just outside Old Deer in Aberdeenshire. By 1861, Neil had died and Janet was living at 56 Canal Terrace, Aberdeen with 4 children.
John 3 Jan 1808 1. Agnes Barr Cumming of Port Glasgow at Greenock 11 Feb 1839. She d. 20 Feb 1849.
2. Catherine White of Dunoon at Glasgow on 12 Jun 1854
- Followed his father into the printing trade. He appears as a "lithographic printer" in Hamilton St., Greenock, 1834-61. "Widower" in 1851 census. A daughter Mary Bain J. married John Cromarty on 6 Jan 1900 in Newtown N.S.W.
James 17 Aug 1809 - - "Absent from this Country" for some years at time of father's 1839 will and it was not known whether he was still alive.
Kerr 3 Sep 1812 Elizabeth ("Eliza") Denovan Gowan (b. 1816)
on 4 Aug 1842 in Perth, Scotland.
9 children (see link on name).
1887 in Kew (Melbourne), Vic. Minister of religion. See link on name.
Recorded as "Kerry" in registry of births.
The author's great-great-grandparents.
Mary 17 Jul 1814 - 8 Jan 1847 in Greenock
(Greenock Advertiser 12 Jan 1847)
Andrew 30 Apr 1820 Elizabeth Cheyne at Lochead, Aberdeen, 22 Nov 1842
Son Andrew Cheyne Johnston d. Greenock 15 Apr 1849 aged 4yrs 4mths.
- "Printer"; must have been in father's business, since the will leaves him "my Stock in Trade and Goodwill of business".

From William Johnston's will (see transcript), we learn that he also had a stepdaughter, Elizabeth ("Eliza"). Elizabeth McDonald Johnston married John Miller in Greenock Old Parish on 12 Aug 1817. According to William Johnston's will, John Miller in 1839 was General Inspector of the Fisheries, Leith.

William Johnston's date of birth is still uncertain but a William Johnston, son of William Johnston and Elizabeth Cameron, was born in Port Glasgow, about 2 miles from Greenock and then as now joined onto it, on 17 October 1779. This is most likely to be our man, but we do not yet have any proof to that effect. There were many Johnstons in the area and those who were not members of the established church were not in the parish record.

In the 1851 census, the 38-year-old widow and five children of William Jr (son of the printer) appear, living at 17 Sir Michael Street with one servant, and also John Johnston the printer (43-year-old widower, lithographer employing two boys, born Greenock, Renfrewshire and living in Kelly Street with one house servant) but not Andrew, who must have died in the interim since his father's death.

The Johnstons all appear to have vanished from Greenock by the time of the 1861 census. There are no obvious entries in the deaths index, so we do not know what had happened to William Jr's family. And John had either died or retired and moved (perhaps to Dunoon, as a John Johnston of the right age did die there a few years later).

For the next generation, this history follows the line of William's seventh child, Kerr.