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The Scottish Nation

JOHNSTON, or JOHNSTONE, the surname of a once powerful border family, who possessed the title of marquis of Annandale, dormant since 1792. They derived their name from the lands and barony of Johnstone, in the upper district of Annandale, Dumfries-shire. In ancient times the chief of the Johnstones held the office of steward of Annandale, and was often appointed warden of the west marches. In suppressing the predatory inroads of the mosstroopers who infested the borders, the Johnstones rendered themselves conspicuous, for which they assumed the device of the winged spur, with the motto of “Aye Ready,” and in the 15th and 16th centuries, they waged constant warfare with the Douglases and the Maxwells.

      Several persons of the name of Johnston are mentioned in the Ragman Roll, as among those barons who swore an unwilling fealty to Edward I. of England in 1296. One of these, Gilbertus de Johnston, had a charter of several lands, in the reign of Robert the Bruce. Another, Sir John Johnston, made a conspicuous figure in border transactions, and is mentioned in the Federa Anglia, in the time of Robert the Third.

      There were two ancient families of this name who disputed for the chiefship; those of the north, designed of Caskieben or Hilton, Aberdeenshire, and those of the south, afterwards of Annandale in Dumfries-shire, the latter represented by the Johnstones of Westerhall in the same county (See JOHNSTONE).


      The Johnstons of Hilton, who possess a baronetcy, have always been designated of Johnston. The first mentioned, in an old genealogical account of this house, in the possession of the family, is Stiven de Johnston, who lived in the reign of King David II., and is said to have been the eldest brother of the laird of Johnston in Annandale. Being a man addicted to learning, a quality rare in those days, on which account he was called clerk, he retired from the troubles in his own country or district to Aberdeenshire, where he was appointed principal secretary to the earl of Mar. By his marriage with Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir Andrew Garioch, knight, of Caskieben in that county, he got the lands of Caskieben, Crimond, &c., also those of Kinburn and some others, which he called Johnston, from his own name, and from him are descended all the Johnstons of the north.

      His son, John de Johnston of Caskieben, proprietor of the lands of Ballindalloch, married Margery, daughter of Leighton of Owsan, now Usan, in Forfarshire. The son of the latter gilbert de Johnston, designed, in his father’s lifetime, Johnston of Ballindalloch, was twice married: first, to Elizabeth Vass, daughter of the laird of Menle, by whom he had a son, Alexander, and three daughters; and, 2dly, to a daughter of Sir Alexander Forbes, second Lord Pitsligo, by whom he had a son, William Johnston of Ballindalloch.

      The elder son, Alexander, in the reign of King James II., got his lands of Caskieben, which till then had been held of the earl of Mar, erected into a free barony, to be called the barony of Johnston in all time coming. Thence this family are designed Johnstons of that ilk. He died in the reign of James III. William, the eldest of his four sons, succeeded to the estate. He was killed at the fatal battle of Flodden. His son, James Johnston of that ilk, died in 1548. He had three sons and four daughters.

      William, the eldest son and apparent heir, joined the royal standard, and was slain at the battle of Pinkie, in 1547, his father being then alive. He had married Margaret, daughter of Hay of Dalgetty, of the noble family of Errol, by whom he had one son, George, and three daughters.

      George Johnston of that ilk, the son, succeeded his grandfather the following year. He married Christian, daughter of the seventh Lord Forbes, by whom he had six sons and seven daughters. He died in 1590. The fifth son was the celebrated Arthur Johnston, of whom a memoir is given below.

      The eldest son, John Johnston of that ilk, married, first, Janet, daughter of Turing of Foveran, by whom he had two sons, George and John, and two daughters; and, secondly, Catherine, daughter of Lundie of that ilk, in Fife, by whom he had, with one daughter, two sons, Thomas, in virtue of his mother’s contract, laird of Craig, from whom the present baronet is lineally descended, and Gilbert.

      The eldest son, Sir George Johnston, described as a man of abilities and merit, was, by King Charles I., created a baronet of Nova Scotia by royal patent, 31st March 1626. The date is given from the records of the great seal, which is the ordinary rule, being there set down as “ultimo die Martii anno Domini millesimo sexcentesimo vigesimo sexto anno regni secundo.” In the original patent, however, in possession of the family, the date stands thus (with one word, vigesimo or trigesimo, defaced at the beginning) “----------primo die mensis Martii, anno Domini millesimo sexcentesimo vigesimo quinto, anno regni primo.” In the book of the Privy Seal, the duke is plainly 31st March, 1625, “anno regni primo.” If the patent and privy seal are right, the holder of this baronetcy has the precedency of all the baronets now existing in Scotland, but he has hitherto ranked from the date in the records of the great seal. In 1630, Sir George was made sheriff of Aberdeen, on the removal of George, sixth earl of Huntly. By his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Forbes of Tolquhon, he had three sons and two daughters.

      The eldest son, Sir George, second baronet, married a daughter of Sir William Leslie of Wardhouse.

      His only son, sir John Johnston, third baronet, entered early into the army, and served in King William’s wars in Flanders. He was afterwards a captain under that monarch at the battle of the Boyne. Whilst in London for a short time, he was unfortunately induced to assist his friend, the Hon. Captain John Campbell, in carrying off and marrying Miss Mary Wharton, a young and rich heiress, related to Lord Wharton, the great favourite of King William, and that nobleman immediately obtained a proclamation offering a reward for their apprehension. Campbell escaped into Scotland, but Sir John was not so fortunate. Having been betrayed by his landlord for fifty pounds, he was tried at the Old Bailey, condemned, and executed, on 31st Dec., 1690. He fell a sacrifice to the bitter animosity which was then entertained by the English against the Scotch, for it appeared, upon his trial, by the evidence of the clergyman who performed the marriage ceremony, and that of the people of the house in which they lodged, and where they remained two days, as well as by Miss Wharton’s own letter to her aunt, acquainting her of her marriage, that there was no force used, but that she was freely consenting to it. Sir John’s whole participation in the matter consisted in being present at the marriage, and lending his apartments to accommodate his friend, and he never had any idea that this, by the laws of England, constituted an offence worthy of death. His defence and whole deportment at the time are said to have been affecting in the extreme. He was a brave man, and bitterly lamented the ignominy of his death. The whole account of the trial and execution, and the ballads made on the occasion, are preserved among the family papers. The marriage was dissolved by act of parliament, and Captain Campbell, afterwards designed of Mamore, married a daughter of the eighth Lord Elphinston, and was father of the fourth duke of Argyle. Dying unmarried, Sir John was succeeded by his cousin, John, son of John Johnston of Newplace, second son of the first baronet.

      Sir John, fourth baronet, was a zealous Jacobite, and in 1715 with his only son and as many of his retainers as he could assemble, he joined the earl of Mar, and at the battle of Sheriffmuir his son was killed by his side. After the suppression of the rebellion Sir John dared not return home, and died in obscurity at Edinburgh in 1725.

      He was succeeded by his cousin, Sir William Johnston of Craig and Bishopstown, fifth baronet, who died in 1750. By his wife, Jean, daughter of John Sandilands, of the Torphichen family, he had two sons and three daughters. His second son, Alexander, an officer in the navy, was drowned with his whole crew on the coast of Kincardineshire, off Stonehaven. Sir William, the elder son, sixth baronet, entered early into the royal navy, and had the command of a ship-of-war at the time of his father’s death. On that event taking place, quitting the navy, he returned home, and purchased the lands of Hilton, near Aberdeen. He was thrice married: first, to Sarah, daughter of Thomas Kirby, an eminent West India merchant, by whom he had one son, who died in infancy; secondly, to Elizabeth, daughter of Captain William Cleland, R.N., of the Clelands of that ilk, by whom he had six sons and five daughters; and thirdly, to Amy, daughter of Newman French, Esq. of Bellechamp, in the county of Essex, and widow of John Pudsey, Esq., without issue. He died in March 1794, aged 82. His fourth son, Alexander, midshipman on board his majesty’s ship, Assistance, commodore Sir Charles Douglas, perished with the first lieutenant, the Hon. Douglas Hallyburton, and all the barge’s crew, off Sandyhook in America, December 31, 1783, aged 18. Some of the ship’s company had seized one of the boars, and made for the shore with the intention of deserting, when Alexander Johnston and some other young men volunteered to recover the boat and bring back the deserters. The commodore permitted them to go, under the command of the first lieutenant, but the day soon closing in, and the night being stormy and severely cold, they did not return, and next morning they were all found on the shore, frozen to death.

      The eldest son, Sir William Johnston of Johnston, seventh baronet, entered very young into the army, and served in India for some years with considerable reputation. He took part in seven actions, and was at the capture of the forts on the coast of Malabar. In 1798 he raised a regiment of fencible infantry, for general service, styled “The Prince of Wales’ Own,” which was reduced at the short peace of 1802. He represented the burgh of New Windsor, in the first imperial parliament, in which he sat five years; but retired at the general election, not choosing to stand a contest. He married, first, Mary, daughter of John Bacon, Esq. of Shrubland Hall, Suffolk, lineally descended from the Lord keeper Bacon, whose third son was the great philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon, lord chancellor of England and Baron Verulam. This lady died in 1802 without issue. He married, 2dly, Maria, only daughter of John Bacon, Esq. of Fryern House, Middlesex, younger son of an elder branch of the Shrubland family; issue, 3 sons and 4 daughters. He died at the Hague, January 13, 1844, in his 84th year.

      His eldest son, Sir William Bacon Johnston, 8th baronet, born in 1804, and unmarried, was at one period an officer in the 1st royals; a deputy-lieutenant of Aberdeenshire. Darcy, the 2d son, died in Bengal. Arthur Lake, the youngest son, a lieutenant 21st Royal Fusiliers, died February 21, 1853.

JOHNSTON, JOHN, an eminent Latin poet and scholar, of the family of Crimond, is supposed to have been born, near Aberdeen, about 1570. He received the early part of his education under Mr. Robert Mercer, minister of Banchory, to whom, by his last will, he bequeathed his white cup with the silver foot, “in taikin of his thankful dewtie.” He studied at King’s college, Aberdeen, whence he proceeded to attend some of the universities on the continent. In 1587 he was at the university of Helmstadt, and in the following year at that of Rostock, where he enjoyed the intimacy and correspondence of the learned Justus Lipsius. On his return to his native country, he was, about 1593, through the influence, it is supposed, of Andrew Melville, appointed professor of divinity in the new college of St. Andrew’s; and in all the ecclesiastical disputes of that period he proved himself to be a zealous and useful coadjutor of that illustrious reformer, in support of the presbyterian church of Scotland. He died in October 1612. He left behind him some MSS. preserved in the Advocates’ Library, and also epitaphs on his wife, Catherine Melville, of the family of Carribee, and their two children.

      His works are:

      Inscriptiones Historicae Regum Scotorum, continuatae Annorum Serie, à Fergusio primo regni conditore ad nostra tempora, cum figuris; Praefixus est Gathelus, sive de Gentis Origine, Fragmentum Andreae Melvini. Additae sunt Icones omnium Regum Nobilis Familiae Stuartorum. Amsterdam, 1602, 1603, 4to. This, his first complete poetical work, is preserved in the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum, and consists of epigrammatic addresses to the Scottish Kings from Fergus I. to James VI.

      Heroes ex omni Historia Scotica Lectissimi. Leyden, 1603. A series of epigrams similar to the above, addressed to the heroes who flourished in Scottish history during the same period; also preserved in the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum.

      Consolatio Christiani sub Cruce ex vivifico Dei Verbo. Leyden, 1609, 8vo.

      Jambi Sacri. Leyden, 1611.

      Tetrasticha et Lemmata Sacra, &c. Leyden, 1612.

      Icones Regem Judae et Israelis, Carmine expressae. Leyden, 1612, 4to.

      He also wrote epigrams on the principal towns of Scotland, inserted in Camden’s Britannia.

JOHNSTON, ARTHUR, an eminent Latin poet and physician, was born in 1587, at Caskieben, Aberdeenshire, the seat of his ancestors, as he informs us, for many generations. He was the fifth son of George Johnston of Caskieben, and Christian, daughter of William Lord Forbes. He had five brothers. The eldest, John Johnston, was appointed sheriff of Aberdeen in 1630, and the youngest, Dr. William Johnston, after having filled the chairs of humanity and philosophy in the university of Sedan, was appointed the first professor of mathematics in Marischal college. Like his brother he also wrote Latin verses.

      Arthur received the early part of his education at the grammar school of Kintore, in the neighbourhood of his father’s estate, and is supposed to have studied at King’s college, Old Aberdeen, as he was afterwards elected rector of that university. With the view of studying medicine, in 1608 he went to the continent, and twice visited Italy. He remained for some time at the university of Padua, where, in 1610, the degree of M.D. was conferred upon him. He subsequently travelled through Germany, Denmark, and Holland; and, after visiting England, he at last settled in France, where he acquired considerable eminence as a Latin poet. He lived in that country for about twenty years, and by two wives, the one a French-woman, and the other a native of Brabant, had thirteen children. While residing in France, as we learn from several of his poems, he was engaged in a lawsuit in the court of Mechlin, with a person living near the forest of Ardennes, in which he was at last successful. Dr. Irving conjectures that the subject of ligation was some property accruing to him by marriage.

      On the death of King James, in 1625, Johnston, whom he had patronised, celebrated his mild virtues in an elegy, which was printed at London the same year. In 1628, he published at Aberdeen, two elegies, one addressed to Bishop Patrick Forbes on the death of his brother, and the other on the breaking of the ancient alliance between Scotland and France. On the title page he is styled one of the royal physicians. In 1632 he returned to Scotland, after an absence of twenty-four years. He appears soon after to have had a lawsuit in the court of session, in reference to which several of his poems are written, one of which is addressed to Lord-chancellor Hay, and another to the Lord-advocate Nicholson.

      On the visit of Charles I. to Edinburgh in 1633, Johnston was introduced to Archbishop Laud, who became his patron. He had printed at London a specimen of a new version of the Psalms of David, which he dedicated to that prelate, who urged him to proceed with it. a complete translation of the whole was published by him four years afterwards. The comparative merit of Johnston’s translation of the Psalms and Buchanan’s version was, about the middle of last century, the subject of a famous controversy, in which the notorious William Lauder and a simple English gentleman, of the name of Benson, an auditor of the Imprests in the Exchequer, stood forward as the zealous trumpeters of Johnston, while Mr. Love and Mr. Reddiman ably and successfully defended Buchanan. Three editions of Johnston’s Psalms were printed at Benson’s expense, with an elegant Life of the translator prefixed. One of these, in quarto, with a fine portrait of Johnston, by Vertue, after Jamesone, and copiously illustrated with notes, was published in 1741, dedicated to the price of Wales. The following woodcut is taken from it:

[portrait of Arthur Johnston]

      Johnston died in 1641, at Oxford, whither he had gone on a visit to one of his daughters, who was married to a clergyman of the church of England of that city, where he lies buried. He appears to have been on terms of intimacy with most of the eminent men of his time in Scotland, many of whom he has commemorated in his poetry, and there is scarcely a family of any note in the north of Scotland, to some branch of which he has not addressed his Latin verses.

      His works are:

      Parerga, and Epigrammata. Aberdeen, 1632, 8vo. the former dedicated to Sir John Scot of Scotstarvet, and the latter to the earl of Lauderdale.

      The Song of Solomon, with the seven penitential, and the seven consolatory Psalms, translated into Latin elegiac verse. London, 1633, 8vo. The first dedicated to the king, the second to Laud, and the third to Lesley, bishop of Raphoe. New edition printed by Ruddiman. Edin. 1709.

      Psalmorum Davidis Paraphrasum Poetica, being a complete translation of the Psalms of David. Aberdeen, 1637, 12mo. Dedicated to Mary Erskine, Countess Marischal. Appended are the Canta Evangelica, comprehending the Salutation of the Angel, the Song of Elizabeth, the Song of the Blessed Virgin, the Song of Zacharias, the Song of Simeon, the Hymn of St. Ambrose, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. Reprinted at London in 1637 and 1652, also at Amsterdam in 1766, under the inspection of David Hoogstratan, and dedicated to James Brockhusius.

      He also wrote Musae Aulicae, or commendatory verses on some of his most distinguished contemporaries, and edited the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum, in which he introduced many of his own pieces. Published at Amsterdam in 1637.

      Collected edition of his works, by Mr. William Spang, minister of the Scottish church at Campvere. Middleburg, 1642.

JOHNSTON, ROBERT, a learned historian, who lived in the earlier part of the seventeenth century, was the author of a very copious History of Great Britain, published at Amsterdam in 1655, under the title of ‘Historia Rerum Britannicarum,’ &c., from 1572 to 1628. this work, designed as a continuation of Buchanan, has been praised by Bishop Nicholson, in his Scottish Historical Library, and by Lord Woodhouselee, according to whom Johnston was one of George Heriot’s executors. He wrote also ‘The History of Scotland during the Minority of James VI.,’ published at London in 1646. He is supposed to have died in 1630. A manuscript History of Scotland, preserved in the Advocates’ Library, which belonged to Lord Fairfax, is supposed to have been partly written by Robert Johnston.

JOHNSTON, SIR ARCHIBALD, LORD WARRISTON, a distinguished lawyer and statesman, was the son of James Johnston of Beirholm, in Annandale, formerly a merchant in Edinburgh, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Craig, the celebrated lawyer. The exact time of his birth is not known, but he was admitted advocate in 1633. So early as 1637 he began to take a prominent part in the disputes of the period, and became an active agent and principal confident of the Presbyterians in all their proceedings. The second or general supplication to the king for relief from his Episcopal innovations, present to the privy council, September 24, 1637, was prepared by Johnston and the earl of Rothes, and on the subsequent renewal of the Covenant, in March 1638, he and the celebrated Alexander Henderson were appointed to revise and adapt that national document to the circumstances of the times. At the memorable assembly which met at Glasgow in November 1638, Johnston was unanimously elected clerk, and such was the confidence which the leaders of the Covenant reposed in him, that, the day before the termination of the session, he was constituted procurator for the church. He was afterwards one of the Scotch commissioners who conducted the treaty of Berwick; and on June 11, 1640, he was appointed by the Estates of the kingdom general adviser to the commissioners sent to England, in which capacity he acted in the various commissions appointed to negotiate with the king or the English parliament, throughout the whole proceedings of the civil war. In 1641, when Charles I. visited Scotland, Johnston was knighted, and nominated an ordinary lord of session, with a pension of £200 per annum. In 1643 he represented the county of Edinburgh in the Estates of parliament, when he was appointed speaker to the barons, and as such made various important motions relative to the public transactions of that disturbed period. In July 1644 he was sent to London as one of the parliamentary commissioners, to attend the English parliament and the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. In 1646, on the death of Sir Thomas Hope, Johnston succeeded him as lord advocate, and one of the last of his official acts in that dignity was the proclaiming Charles II. king on February 5, 1649. On Marcy 10, the same year, he was appointed lord-clerk-register, in place of Gibson of Durie, superseded by the Act of Classes. After the battle of Dunbar, in 1650, at which he was present, he lived for some years in retirement; but having been induced to go to London, he was unfortunately prevailed upon to accept of office under Cromwell, who, July 9, 1657, re-appointed him lord-clerk-register, and, November 3, named him one of the commissioners for the administration of justice in Scotland. He also created him a peer, and under the title of Lord Warriston he sat for some time in parliament. After the death of the Protector, he acted as president of the committee of safety, when Richard Cromwell had resigned the reins of government. At the Restoration orders were issued for his arrest, and knowing that, from his compliance with Cromwell, and his uniform support of the Covenanters, he might expect no mercy from the new government, he escaped to France, and was outlawed in the usual form, October 10, 1660. An act of forfeiture being passed against him in absence, he was condemned to death, May 15, 1661. An emissary of government, appropriately named “Crooked Alexander Murray,” discovered his retreat at Rouen, and with permission of the French council, brought him prisoner to England. He was at first lodged in the tower, and thence removed to Edinburgh, where, without the formality of a trial, he was hanged at te Cross, July 22, 1663, dying with the utmost constancy and Christian fortitude.

JOHNSTON, DAVID, D.D., an eminent clergyman, founder of the Blind Asylum in Edinburgh, was born in 1733. His father was minister of Arngask, Fifeshire, and his mother’s father, the Rev. David Williamson of St. Cuthberts, Edinburgh, to which parish he was ordained in 1661, was a celebrated minister of the Church of Scotland, in the days of the persecution, from the Restoration to the Revolution, and is referred to as “Mess David Williamson” in an old ballad sung by one of the mob in the ‘Heart of Mid Lothian.’ His grandson, the subject of this notice, was ordained to the parish of Langton, Berwickshire, in 1759. About six years after, he was translated to the maritime parish of North Leith, including the fishing village of Newhaven, where he distinguished himself by his active Christian philanthropy, and became endeared to his parishioners by his constant pastoral visitations and unceasing solicitude for their spiritual and temporal welfare.

      With the establishment of that truly benevolent institution, the Asylum at Edinburgh for the industrious blind, first opened on 23d September 1793, the name and memory of Dr. Johnston are indelibly associated, and his bust was placed above the principal entrance, in Nicholson Street of that city. The necessary funds were raised at first mainly through his exertions, and those of several charitable gentleman of Edinburgh. He was so much interested in the success of the institution that he devoted five days in the week to its personal superintendence; and, for this purpose, regularly walked on those days (Saturday and Sunday were the exceptions) to and from Edinburgh, the distance being about two miles and a half. Such was the muscular activity for which he was always remarkable, that at the extreme age of ninety, he performed the journey as usual. He died at Leith on 5th July, 1824, in the 91st year of his age, and 66th of his ministry. The only survivor of a large family was a daughter, married to William Penney, Esq., Glasgow. for more than 24 years he had been assisted in his parochial duties by the Rev. Dr. Ireland, who succeeded to the parish on Dr. Johnston’s death, but died in 1828.

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