Tribute to John Johnston

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John-Johnston-wIain Hope penned this tribute to his brother-in-law, Helensburgh Heritage Trust company secretary and treasurer John Johnston, who died on October 5 2012.

JOHN JOHNSTON first came to live in Helensburgh in 1945 when his parents, Jack and Muriel Johnston, chose to move their young family from the London area to his father’s ancestral town.

His time at Larchfield School first fired his lifelong enjoyment of rugby, in teenage years playing for West of Scotland, followed by long years involvement in Youth Rugby in Twickenham, then, on his retirement, back to being a great supporter of Helensburgh Rugby Club.

From Larchfield he went on to Uppingham School, Rutland, in the footsteps of five previous generations of his family.

In holiday time he always came home to Helensburgh. Sailing from the then Royal Northern Yacht Club in the Dragon Laju, owned by his uncle, Ivor Johnston of Helensburgh, opened a new world to him.

After Uppingham John returned full time to Helensburgh and served five years as a trainee Chartered Accountant with McLellan Kerr of Glasgow.

Following qualification he opted for National Service and was commissioned into the Scots Guards, serving in Germany on the frontier opposite Soviet troops and finally on Guard duties in London.

On release from National Service he was transferred to the Army Reserve List. He later became a member of the Guards Association, and latterly chairman of the Glasgow branch.

His long civilian working life, in the financial world of the City of London, started with the merchant banking firm of Dawnay Day, and later in senior positions with Jacob Rothschild and the Rothschild Investment Trust.

In 1962 he married Penny Kidston of Helensburgh, followed with the arrival of their four children, Tanya, Vanora, Adrian and David, home then being in Hampton/Twickenham.

In a tribute to his early education at Larchfield in Helensburgh he agreed to serve on the Board of Governors of Newland House Prep School in Twickenham, later becoming chairman for 10 years.

The wish of Penny and John for many years was that on retirement from working life in R.I.T., they would return to Helensburgh.

In this they were grateful to be able to inherit from John’s uncle, Ivor Johnston, the old family home of Rhu Arden on Upper Sutherland Crescent. An architectural gem from Thomas Leiper, this reinforced their interest in Scottish, and particularly Helensburgh, architecture and culture.

John became a director of Helensburgh Heritage Trust in 2001 and its company secretary and treasurer four years later. He held similar roles in the Comet 2012 Bicentenary Project which the Trust instigated.

Also on historical aspects he enjoyed researching and writing material for the Helensburgh Heritage Trust book ‘200 years of Helensburgh 1802-2002’.

With his long financial experience he was eagerly sought by many voluntary organisations in Helensburgh and the West of Scotland for advice and hopefully to be their secretary and/or treasurer. His memberships were amazing in their number and diversity.

Partnered by Penny and often giving home hospitality to visiting speakers to Helensburgh from far afield, they developed many new friendships in these so-called retirement years.

At the Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving at St Michael and All Angels Church, Helensburgh, on Friday 12th October 2012 the attendance of over 300 showed the depth of regard for John.

The very visible presence of the Guard of Honour from the Scots Guards was representative of the strength of feeling and wish to give support to the family at their great loss.