Johnstone (Scots: Johnstoun,[2] Scottish Gaelic: Baile Iain)[3] is a town in the administrative area of Renfrewshire and larger historic county of the same name, in the west central Lowlands of Scotland.

The town lies 3 miles (5 km) west of neighbouring Paisley, 12 miles (19 km) west of the centre of the city of Glasgow and 12 miles (19 km) north east of Kilwinning.[4] Part of the biggest conurbation in Scotland, Johnstone is at the western edge of the Greater Glasgow Urban Area.


Houston Square with bandstand and fountain gifted by the Laird, George Ludovic Houston, in 1891.[4]

Johnstone was largely a planned community which grew up around the house of Easter Cochrane, later known as Johnstone Castle, seat of the Houston or Houstoun family who gained their name from the nearby village of Houston. In 1782, the Laird, George Houstoun, commissioned designs for a series of regular residential streets which now form the town centre. At this early stage of development, the town’s population including the local estate and rural hinterland was around 1,500.[4] Two mirroring civic squares were also constructed in the town: Houstoun Square and Ludovic Square,[5] the latter named for the Laird's son, and by 1794 the town had gained its current parish church.[6] Johnstone was raised to the status of a police burgh with significant local powers, a status which is now defunct. The former court building continues to stand in Collier Street.[6]

The war memorial in Houstoun Square

Industrial development brought both prosperity and poverty to the community. Coal mining occurred in Johnstone, although its main industry was related to the thread and cotton industries, with mills powered by the Black Cart Water which runs to the north of Johnstone.[5] A six-storey cotton mill, one of the largest in Scotland, was built in 1782, and was rescued from failure by Robert Burns of Paisley sometime before 1812. Burns introduced Richard Arkwright's methods for spinning cotton.[7] As the community expanded, slum conditions formed in part of the town: the population by 1831 had increased to a sizeable 5,600.[4] Unfortunately, the owners of Johnstone mill did not make much philanthropic progress among their worker population,[8] and the situation was not addressed until the 1930s by a significant expansion of the size of Johnstone to include a number of purpose-built residential estates.

Aerial view of Johnstone Castle housing estate

Much of Johnstone’s feudal heritage has disappeared. With the death of the last Laird in 1931, Johnstone Castle fell into disrepair before being largely demolished in 1950. The remaining tower was purchased in 2001 and is now a private residence. On the site of the former grounds now lies two housing estates, Johnstone Castle and Cochrane Castle. Embedded within Cochrane Castle is the Cochrane Castle Golf Club, which once held the world record for the longest hole.[4]

More recently, Johnstone History Museum opened in 2008 - notably becoming the world's the first museum located inside a supermarket.[9]

In 2015, the new Johnstone Town Hall was completed at a cost of £14.5m


Thorn Public School, as it was originally called, opened in 1904 . A new Thorn primary school opened in 1988, with the former building demolished in 1988. The old site is now occupied by a housing estate, although parts of the original walls are still standing.

In 1950 St. David's Primary School was built along with its sister school Cochrane Castle Primary School. In 2007 the two schools were housed in a new shared building just outside Thomas Shanks Public Park.

Johnstone High Parish Church

Johnstone High School opened on its present site in March 1965, the previous building having burnt down in 1960. Where the old school stood in Ludovic Square there is now a modern health centre. The original St Cuthberts High School was built adjacent to Johnstone High School and shared the same driveway and car parks. The school closed in 1972 and moved to a new site in Hallhill Road Spateston that year. The original school was demolished and replaced by a housing development to the left of the driveway of Johnstone High School.

In 1967, St Curthberts High School was built and established. The school closed at the end of the summer term 2006 along with St. Brendan's High School in Linwood due to falling rolls and the buildings' poor state of repair. These were replaced by a new build St. Benedict's High School, named in honour of St Benedict of Nursia the patron saint of Europe and of students. The old St. Cuthbert's building was used to house several schools (including Johnstone High School from 2008-2009) while their own premises were being refurbished. Similarly to the original St Cuthberts School, the building has subsequently been demolished, with a new housing development taking its place.


At a local government level, the town is split between the Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch and Johnstone South and Elderslie wards for elections to Renfrewshire Council, which elect four councillors each under the Single Transferable Vote electoral system. These boundaries were first used in the 2017 Renfrewshire Council election, with councillors elected being 3 Scottish National Party (SNP), 2 Labour Party, 2 Conservative Party and 1 Independent.

For elections to the Scottish Parliament, Johnstone is included in the constituency of Renfrewshire South which is currently held by Tom Arthur, who became the first SNP Member of Scottish Parliament for the area after being elected in the 2016 Scottish general election. Previously, from the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the constituency and its predecessor seat had been represented by Labour Party politician Hugh Henry. Johnstone is also included in the West Scotland electoral region, which elects seven additional members.

In the British House of Commons the town is contained within the seat of Paisley and Renfrewshire South, which has been held by the SNP's Mhairi Black since the 2015 election. Black's election marked a significant political change for the town, as the area had traditionally been very strong for the Labour Party, which had continuously held constituencies containing the town since 1945. Black was subsequently re-elected in the 2017 and 2019 elections.



Johnstone is served by Glasgow International Airport, which is located 3 12 miles (5.6 km) northeast of the town. Moreover, Prestwick International Airport is a 30-to-40-minute train journey from Johnstone railway station.


A dual carriageway, the A737 connects Johnstone to the M8 motorway to provide car transport links to central Scotland.

Bus services

McGill's Bus Service Limited operate the majority of local services from their depot in the west end of Johnstone, running the following routes serving the town

  • 1/1A: Johnstone – Kilmacolm
  • 2/2A: Johnstone - Bridge of Weir
  • 20: Spateston-Johnstone Centre-Paisley-Whitehaugh (via Elderslie and the Royal Alexandria Hospital)
  • 38: Spateston/Kilbarchan - Johnstone Centre - Paisley - Glasgow
  • 904: Largs - Kilbirnie - Beith - Howwood - Johnstone - Paisley

Key Coaches are a local service operator based in Elderslie. They run the following services.

  • 1: Johnstone – Johnstone Castle
  • 4: Johnstone – Lochwinnoch
  • 5: Johnstone – Spateston


Johnstone is linked to Glasgow Central, Paisley and the Ayrshire coast by the Johnstone railway station which is located at the east of the town on Thorn Brae. A second unmanned station Milliken Park railway station lies at the west end of the town, just off the Cochranemill road. The railway line runs through the cutting of the old Glasgow–Ardrossan canal, although the route of the canal runs under the original bridge, Dick's Bridge, at the bottom of the Thorn Brae, where the canal basin was situated and in winter, the rim of the canal basin sometimes becomes visible.

It may be noted that a second railway line ran through the town serving the villages of Kilbarchan, Bridge of Weir, and Kilmacolm; the line now forms part of the Clyde to Forth cycle route (National Cycle Route 75). It had a station serving the Northern, more industrial areas of town, Johnstone North railway station.

Notable inhabitants

  • William Clunas, – Scotland and Sunderland footballer. Played in the first England V's Scotland match at Wembley Stadium 1924
  • Johnny Grant (Jock Strap) – vocalist of 1970s punk band The Straps, born 1960 and grew up in Johnstone Castle.
  • Adam Brown – professional hockey player; born in Johnstone 02/04/1920, active in the NHL 1941–1952.
  • Tommy Bryce – professional footballer
  • Nick Knowles - television presenter
  • Hunter Davies – journalist, author and broadcaster
  • Robert Pollock Gillespie FRSE – mathematician
  • Renee Houston – music hall and comedy actress; born in Johnstone in 1902, attended St. Margaret's Primary School in Johnstone
  • Phyllis Logan – actress; attended Johnstone High School in the 1970s
  • John Pitcairn, Jr. – Scottish-American industrialist; born in Johnstone, emigrated to the United States, aged five
  • Gordon Ramsay – celebrity chef and TV host, born in Johnstone
  • Peter Tobin – serial killer, born in Johnstone in 1946
  • Jim Leighton – professional footballer, attended St. Cuthbert's Secondary in Johnstone
  • Annie McGuire – BBC Journalist, born in Elderslie, attended St.Cuthbert's Secondary in Johnstone
  • Sir George Houston Reid – 4th Prime Minister of Australia (18 August 1904 – 5 July 1905). George Reid was Prime Minister for ten months and 17 days. He was Australia's first federal Leader of the Opposition and the federal government’s first High Commissioner to the UK.
  • Tommy Turner – professional footballer
  • John Deans – professional footballer
  • Eddie Blair – jazz session trumpeter, in the big bands of the 1950s and 1960s including: The John Dankworth 7, Ted Heath Orchestra and The Ronnie Hazelhurst Orchestra throughout the 1970s and 1980s as well as for the big screen, notably the trumpet solo 'Take Me Home' from the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
  • Alexander McLachlan – poet, who was born at the Brig in 1818.
  • Sir William Arrol – Worked as a boy at the Johnstone mills before becoming the architect of the Forth Rail Bridge and the Tower Bridge in London.
  • Dougie Vipond – Born Douglas Vipond, 15 October 1966, Elderslie, is a Scottish musician and television personality. He studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, graduating in 1985. He was one of the founding members of Scottish soft rock / pop band, [[Deacon Blue[10][11]

See also


  1. ^ "Scottish Census 2011".
  2. ^ List of railway station names in English, Scots and Gaelic – NewsNetScotland Archived 2013-01-22 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba ~ Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e (Our History and Heritage) Homepage[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b Visiting Renfrewshire[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b University of Edinburgh
  7. ^ Anthony Cooke, The Rise and Fall of the Scottish Cotton Industry, 1778-1914 (Manchester University Press, 2010), p. 30.
  8. ^ Anthony Cooke, The Rise and Fall of the Scottish Cotton Industry, 1778-1914 (Manchester University Press, 2010), p. 71-2.
  9. ^ "First Museum In A Supermarket Opens At Morrisons In Johnstone Culture24". www.culture24.org.uk. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  10. ^ Mansfield, Susan (21 March 2009). "Up and Coming: Richard Madden – Young man on a role". The Scotsman. thescotsman.scotsman.com. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  11. ^ Cooper, Neil (12 June 2007). "Less room for doom in the great outdoors". Herald Scotland. heraldscotland.com. Retrieved 13 July 2010.

External links