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William Johnstone

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William Johnstone (1811-1877)

1877 Obituary [1]

MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTONE was born on the 1st of July, 1811, in the Parish of Old Monkland, near Glasgow, in the centre of the Lanarkshire coal-measures, his father being at that time colliery manager to Mr. Dixon, proprietor of the Govan Iron Works. He was educated first at the school of his native parish, and afterwards in Glasgow.

In 1826, he was articled for seven years to the late Mr. David Smith, C.E., Glasgow, at that time one of the leading members of the profession in the west of Scotland, and remained with him for ten years.

In 1837 he joined the staff of Messrs. Grainger and Miller, MM. Inst. C.E., and was employed by them, first in preparing the parliamentary plans and sections of the Glasgow and Ayr railway, an Act for which was obtained in the following session of Parliament, and subsequently as one of the Resident Engineers during its construction.

When the line was opened in 1840 Mr. Johnstone received the appointment of Engineer and General Manager. Ayrshire at the opening of this railway was purely an agricultural county, famed chiefly for its celebrated breed of cattle; its mineral wealth, now second only to Lanarkshire, being then almost unknown and quite undeveloped. Soon, however, borings were put down, pits sunk, and iron works erected, even within sight of the lordly halls of Eglinton. Extensions of the railway system rapidly followed, first to Kilmarnock and subsequently to Gretna, thereby completing the route from Ayrshire to England, with subsidiary branches to the numerous mineral fields of the district; and the Glasgow and Ayr railway of 1840, with its 40 miles of line, thus became the Glasgow and South-Western railway of the present day, with upwards of 300 miles of railway, and its St. Enoch's Station, Glasgow, the fitting complement of St. Pancras, London, and the northern termination of the Midland system.

In all these developments Mr. Johnstone necessarily took a leading part; and under his judicious guidance the system over which he so ably presided became as noted for its freedom from accident as for its economy of management.

After a faithful service of thirty-eight years, Mr. Johnstone, in consequence of failing health, resigned office on the 31st of December, 1874, retaining the appointment of Consulting Engineer to the Company, and until within a few days of his death was engaged in professional duties connected with a limited private practice, which he had entered on after his retirement.

Devotion to duty was Mr. Johnstone’s leading characteristic. As a parliamentary witness he was calm and collected, and he was, much in request as a professional arbiter, for which his business, not less than his professional abilities, eminently qualified him.

In 1857 the Institution of Engineers in Scotland, now the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, was formed, mainly through the exertions of the late Professor W. J. Macquorn Rankine and Mr. Johnstone, and he was elected President on the 4th of September, 1861, and held office for the two following sessions.

He was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 4th of December, 1866.

He died at his residence in Glasgow, on the 27th of April, 1877, leaving a widow, two married daughters, and an only son, who is following his father’s profession.

1877 Obituary [2]

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