Johnston, William (1802-1888) (DNB00)

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JOHNSTON, Sir WILLIAM (1802–1888), lord provost of Edinburgh, third son of Andrew Johnston, by Isabel, daughter of Archibald Keith of Newbattle, born at Kirkhill, near Penicuik, Midlothian, on 27 Oct. 1802. He was educated at the high school, Edinburgh, and after serving terms of apprenticeship with the Edinburgh engravers, Kirkwood & Sons, and William Hume Lizars, began business on his own account as an engraver on 1 Dec. 1825. In the following year he founded, with his brother Alexander Keith Johnston [q. v.], the since well-known firm of W. & A. K. Johnston. He was elected a burgess on 28 July 1828, and on 21 Aug. following was sworn high constable of Edinburgh. He was elected on 14 May 1830 secretary, and on 21 March 1831 moderator to the high constables for the remainder of the term of office of his predecessor, who had resigned by way of protest against a declaration in favour of reform issued by the high constables. On 4 April he was elected moderator for the ensuing year. He also served this office in 1839. In October 1831 he was appointed a member of the dean of guild court, and on 26 Sept. 1832 was sworn of the Edinburgh town council. On 2 Dec. 1837 he was appointed engraver and copperplate printer to the queen, and on 11 April 1839 he was admitted a guild brother of the city of Edinburgh. On a visit to his brother Archibald, surgeon of her majesty's ship North Star, on the Spanish station, in the summer of 1839, he landed with some of the officers at Bilbao, and witnessed a siege of the town by the Carlists. On his return to England he was the bearer of a despatch from Lord John Hay to Earl Minto. On 10 Nov. 1840 he was elected a bailie of Edinburgh. During the great distress of 1842 he presided over the Edinburgh committee of relief, and it was due to his suggestion that the relief works then instituted took the shape of such permanent improvements as ‘The Meadows’ and ‘The Queen's Drive’ round Arthur's Seat. From 1848 to 1851 he served the office of lord provost. On 26 Aug. 1851 he was knighted by the queen in Holyrood Palace. In 1852 he was elected a fellow of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. In 1867 he retired from business to an estate at Kirkhill, near Gorebridge, Midlothian, which he had purchased in 1848, and where he died on 7 Feb. 1888. He was buried on 10 Feb. in the Grange cemetery, Edinburgh. Johnston married twice; first, on 13 March 1829, Margaret, daughter of James Pearson of Fala, Midlothian, who died on 13 June 1865; and secondly, on 23 Oct. 1868, Georgiana Augusta Wilkinson, youngest daughter of William Ker of Gateshaw, Roxburghshire, widow of the Rev. William Scoresby, D.D. His only child (by his first wife) was Elizabeth Whyte, born in 1830, who married Dr. Robert Edmund Scoresby Jackson, and died in 1879.

Johnston collaborated with his brother, Alexander Keith Johnston, in the production of the atlas to Bryce's ‘Family Gazetteer,’ and some other works and maps.

[Private information; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

J. M. R.