Robert Johnston - the master tailor

25/06/2014 14:26


My great grandfather was a tailor. He was born in 1856 in Berwick-upon-Tweed. He started his working life about the age of 14 as a tailor’s apprentice in Berwick, and went on to run tailoring businesses in Hawick, Oban, and Glasgow .

Text Box:  
19 Howgate, Hawick as it is today
His father, also Robert Johnston , was a tailor also. His mother's name was Isabella Bowhill Main. At the time of the 1861 census they lived at Castlegate in Berwick.

At the 1871 census Robert was 14, an apprentice tailor, and the family were living at Golden Square, Berwick. Children started work young in those days - Robert’s 12-year-old brother's occupation was listed in the 1871 census as “Errand Boy”.

Robert married Isabella Paterson who came from Earlston. (Her father was Stewart Paterson.) They were married in Earlston on 26 April 1877 when Robert was 20. Text Box:  
10 Croft Road, Hawick as it is today (blue door)
Robert's whereabouts between 1871 in Berwick and marriage in Earlston in 1877 is not known. His parents and the rest of the family moved to Innerleithen before 1881.

It appears that Robert and Isabella's first home was in Earlston since their first two children were born there.

By the time of the 1881 census they had moved to Hawick, at 19 Howgate. Their children at that time were – Robert A. Johnston (3, born in Earlston), Helen Johnston (2, born in Earlston), and Stewart Johnston (8 months). The 1881 census tells us that Robert was a Master Tailor employing 1 man and 1 boy.

My grandfather Andrew Johnston was born at 25 Howgate, Hawick on May 26th 1882.

The family moved to 10 Croft Road in Hawick.

There is a story in the family that in 1890 Robert made the suit worn by Sir Henry Morton Stanley (of “Dr Livingstone I presume” fame) for his wedding in Westminster Abbey.

Text Box:  
New City Road  as it was –  viewed from the Cowcaddens end .Only the savings bank building remains today 
At the time of the 1891 census they were still living at 10 Croft Road and another child, Isabella B. Johnston, had been born.

It is believed that they then moved to Oban for a short time and then to Glasgow. By the time of the 1901 census they were living at 138 New City Road, Glasgow. (At that time New City Road went from Cowcaddens to St. George’s Cross. It was a major street with tramcars going along it and a branch of Woolworths near the St. George’s Cross end. Very little of it is left today  – just a small part beside Stow College, and another small part beside St. George's Cross.)

The family’s involvement in tailoring continued. Most of the family seem to have been in the tailoring business. Robert Johnston is listed as “Tailor (ladies)”, Robert A. as “Tailor”, Helen is listed as a “Tailoress”. Only Andrew was not involved in tailoring – he is listed as a “Printer Compositer”.

They did not stay at New City Road for long – I have only found the family there in one valuation roll at that time. They moved to 42 Scotia Street (Scotia Street ran between New City Road and Shamrock Street). They appear in the valuation roll there from 1901-02 to 1905-06. (In the same close were a flour miller, a lithographic printer, a horse dealer and a joiner.)

In October 1906 when Robert's son Andrew, my grandfather, got married his “Usual Place of Residence” on the marriage certificate was 42 Scotia Street, Glasgow.  Robert's wife Isabella Paterson is listed as deceased on Andrew's marriage certificate. So she must have died sometime between the 1901 census and Andrew’s marriage in 1906.

I have not yet been able to find out where Robert moved to after Scotia Street. He died on 4th June 1909 at 47 George Street, Glasgow (a site now occupied, if the street numbering has stayed the same, by the University of Strathclyde). He was 53 years old.

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Afterword - What happened to some of the others mentioned?

Robert Johnston's father and mother moved to Innerleithen between 1871 and 1881 and were there at the 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses. He died there in 1909, and she died in 1922 at Walkerburn.

Stewart Johnston seems to have left the family home before 1901 (he does not appear there on the census). I have not yet found where he moved to, but in the Glasgow Roll of Hounour he is listed as from 26 Edmund Street - which was his sister’s address).He fought in First World War and was killed in action in April 1917.  He was in the 12th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry.

Robert A Johnston married Sarah McDougall on June 5 1903. They had had two children. He  fought in First World War and was taken prisoner. He attempted to escape from a POW camp in Germany. He was shot. It was just 25 days before the end of the war. (His address  in the Glasgow Roll of Honour is 86 North Watson Street.)

Sarah McDougall  died of tuberculosis on 20 October 1911 at 103 Edington Street, Glasgow.

My grandfather Andrew Johnston worked as a compositor for 50 years. He died in 1957. He married to Isabella Jane Vannan on 26 October 1906. My father Robert Johnston was their first child.

Isabella B Johnston married John Smith Ironside on 31 December 1915. They had five children.

Helen Johnston married George Aitkenhead on 29 January 1904. They lived at 26 Edmund Street in the Dennistoun area of Glasgow. They had eight children.

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