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Johnstone History Museum
A Project of Johnstone History Society
JHM Web Log
We welcome news of Johnstone, photos of Old Johnstone, stories of former and continuing businesses and even professional articles on regional history. Use our contact form to send story and content ideas.
Mouse Traps Required; Made in Johnstone
🐁 Iain Murray writes: Johnstone History Museum has recently been contacted by a David Drummond who has written a historical account of the Mouse Trap Factory in South William Street (1896-1960). David is going to send photographs and information about the factory. It would be great if we could set up a little display of the Mouse and Rat traps that were produced in Johnstone. Some of you must have some laying about at the back of a cupboard. All we have at the moment is a little display trap used for advertising.

Johnstone History Society October Talk
Tuesday 10th October. 7.30pm Masonic Hall Collier Street Johnstone

Colin Mackie presents The Southern Necropolis

The Southern Necropolis cemetery is a unique historical and educational asset for present and future generations to come and contains over a quarter of a million burials of individuals who have either helped build or been an important part of the rich legacy of Glasgow`s past.

Members expected. All visitors made most welcome

WW1 Role of Honour List
We haqve recently updated our World War 1 Role of Honour list that you will find under the Categories section of our Web Log list. Should you so wish, we can now add your information to the names. If you wish to add information please use the contact section of the Web Site to submit information you wish to include.

Read the article

Reminiscences of Wickman Lang by Eddie McRorie
Skilled trades workers were a major factor in the development of Johnstone's reputation as a center of innovation in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Eddie McRorie has described his experiences working in the machine tool industry in the 1970s; excerpts follow, click here for the full story.

"This is the story of my work as a time served engineering fitter at Wickman Lang, Mary Street, Johnstone from 1971 till 1979 when the factory was closed.

I had served my apprenticeship with Thomas White and Sons woodworking machine tool makers in Paisley and saw an advert for fitters in Wickman Lang as  in 1971 they were expanding and paid the highest wages in the area. The hourly rate at Thomas White was 11/6 pence and in Langs 15/3 pence so an enormous increase in wages and no more buses to work in Paisley. I also stayed in Johnstone castle so the move made sense all round.

I was interviewed by Jim Gibson the senior fitting foreman and told they would let me know. I waited six weeks before my mother told me a Mr Gibson had phoned and I was to call him. It appears that due to a postal strike a letter offering me employment had not been delivered.

...It was skilled work to fine tolerances which when completed had to be passed by the inspector who all wore brown dust-coats and were very strict as anything not exact was returned to you for sorting.

We all worked in a long line at benches running up the length of the fitting bay with steel vices spread along the bench to hold the workpieces.

As you worked you chatted and joked with all around you. Most of the worlds problems were discussed and solved especially at a teabreak when eight or nine would sit on boxes, benches and gossip, argue about football etc. 

...To break the monotony you would go to the toilet several times a day with a different newspaper stuffed inside your boilersuit each time, you had to keep up with the news ha  ha. Everybody bought a different newspaper and they were shared around. Another ploy was to have an assembly drawing in your hand and go for a wander to see who you could blether to and the gaffer thought you were working as you had a drawing. I had a small circle of men I had a blether with throughout the works from storemen,drillers,turners all who became good friends.

The toilets as you would imagine were large and always busy and a lot of extraneous business was conducted there and you could even get your haircut as one of our labourers had trained as a barber and did a roaring trade.

When the Derby race at Epsom was on the radio the toilet would be packed with men listening to various transistor radios ha ha.

There was a works bookie runner who took your bets and passed them to a local bookmaker (the bookmaker used was in Laighcartside street and is the house Penney the dentist now occupies) 

...The boiler suits were part of a scheme whereas for a weekly charge you got three boiler suits with one washed every week in rotation ensuring a clean one on a Monday morning.

...The works canteen was very popular as it was both good and heavily subsidised by the company so it is no surprise that it was always very very busy. Getting to the top of the queue became an art form with all sorts of tricks being used to get out of the factory first and cross over the cobbled road to the canteen building as soon as the dinner hooter went off.

...The works were full of characters funny,sad, idiots,complete nut cases (I joke not) but it gave a variety of situations to entertain us and gossip about. One of the fork lift drivers was always crabbit in the morning but always cheery by the afternoon as he had drunk a quarter bottle of whiskey by then.

...There was an electric oven for heating up cylindrical bushes so as the metal bushes expanded with heat and were then fitted over a shaft and when cooled were immovable. However this oven was used constantly for heating Wisharts pies and sausage rolls. 

...the job now needed me to think a lot more instead of following drawings on a well tried build program as there were errors in drawing calculations and machining some components. This meant our team had to come up with answers to many problems during the build and I was now involved with more of our technical personnel which I found interesting. 

...(the manager) had been developing an Index chuck as there were many factories across the world who had employees put a component into a chuck then complete an operation before having to stop the revolving chuck take out the component and turn it round and put it back in the chuck and repeat the same operation. Donald's idea was a chuck which you didn't stop but was able to revolve the component up to four times without stopping the chuck. This would result in major time saving and revolutionise chucking."

Click here for the full article. See also the related gallery linked below.

Johnstone History Society welcomes submissions of personal, professional and company histories. Use the Contact form to suggest a topic or submit an article for evaluation by the editors.

John Lang & Sons Gallery

History Society Talks
The new session of Historical Talks starts in the Masonic Hall in Collier Street Johnstone at 7.30pm on Tuesday 12th September 2017 See details in the Calendar. All visitors welcome

Doors Open Days Sat 2nd Sept & Sun 3rd Sept
The Museum is taking part of Renfrewshire Doors Open Days
New displays of Johnstone Organisations, past & present have been arranged. The Museum will be open on Saturday 2nd Sept & Sunday 3rd Sept from 1030am till 4pm
Doors Open Passports signed and a childrens quiz included
As with last year there will be a Historic Johnstone Walk leaving the Museum at 2pm Should last about 1 hour weather permitting.

John Lang & Sons a brief overview by Jessica Reid
The Lang organisation started as a private family partnership and progressed into a limited company around 1916. John Lang and Sons specialised in designing and producing lathes. Although they mainly and successfully produced lathes. The company also produced tools and machine parts such as gears.

Read the Article

Johnstone Grand Industrial Exibition 1853
The Great Industrial Exhibition, organised by the Johnstone Mechanics' Institiution took place in 1853 in a building behind McDowall Street in Johnstone. It showcased over a thousand items in four classes, Machinery; Manufactured Goods; The Fine Arts and Curiosities. This article, published in Jan 15 1853, was written by the Paisley correspondent of the "Glasgow Citazen.

Read this

The Johnstone Fair (1875) courtesy of Iain Reynolds
Iain Reynolds of Johnstone has kindly provided us with an interesting insight into the importance of the Fair to all of the Town's citizens.

Read the Letter

Museum Update
As you may be aware, a willing team of Volunteers staff the Museum. With the Holiday season in full swing, the team are all arranging their holidays and this calls for a few rearrangements in the Rota system. But, we are a flexible lot and there is no sign that we will have any difficulty filling the slots. Thanks to all the Team for the great work they do to keep the operation on the road.

Use this link or call the museum to volunteer.

Volunteer (Contact us)

Rod MacDuff Traces Johnstone Roots VIDEO
Rod MacDuff has posted a personal documentary of sites in Johnstone related to his ancestors. (Re-posted from Facebook and Youtube; thanks to Jim McLaughlin for doing most of the homework for us.)

PS: If you have a Johnstone history video on line that is publicly accessible, we may be able to embed it in this fashion. Please coordinate through the museum.

Johnstone History Society May Talk
We had a great talk from Alexander Hall on the Malta Convoy that rescued the Island from imminent surrender to the German and Italian forces.

We had a packed house to hear the Story of Operation Pedestal in August 1942, that concluded with only 4 merchant sips and the Tanker Ohio reaching Valetta Harbour. Huge loss of life to deliver the precious cargo.

The courage of the Maltese people led to the Island being awarded the George Cross.

Johnstone History Society May Talk
May Monthly Meeting & Talk

The Relief of Malta
by Alexander Hall

Tuesday May 9th at 7.30 in the Masonic Hall Collier Street, Johnstone
Members Expected Visitors always Welcome

Note:- This is the last talk of this years session. We start again on Tuesday 12th September with our next winter Programme. Enjoy your Summer Holidays.

Johnstone WWI Role of Honour
We've recently received a copy of the Johnstone Role of Honour from World War I. Watch the site for an expanded presentation. If you are a relative or friend of one of the persons listed, we plan to add a photograph and biography for as many as possible; details on that procedure will be announced soon on these pages.

This would be a good time register as a member of the website. If you are a regular member of the History Society, we will also be linking the two member lists, and an annoucement of that procedure is also forthcoming.

This list was compiled by the late John Kenny J.P. who was a Committee Member of the Johnstone History Society. It is reproduced here by kind permission of his widow Mrs Agnes Kenny.


Download the list here

Fordbank House - Mansion & former Maternity Unit
Fordbank, a Brief Account of the House and its Occupants

by Bill Speirs

Fordbank House was built on the lands of Little Corseford, being part of the 40s land of Corseford.

Its genesis came about 1856-57, when James Richardson of Ralston, a wealthy sugar merchant in Glasgow acquired the estates of Caplaw and Hallhill on the extreme east of the parish of Lochwinnoch.

In January of 1858 he added the small farm of Little Corseford to his land holdings. In November of that year he feud a plot of these lands, 1 acre and 32 poles, to James Christie.

James Christie was employed as cashier to James Richardson & Co Merchants, Glasgow. Originally from Fife, he was resident at Hillhead in Glasgow in 1858, by 1859 he was living at Fordbank Villa.

By 1863 James had went into business own his own account, forming James Christie & Co. (Sugar Merchants) with offices in Virginia Street, Glasgow. The following year he was in partnership with an Edinburgh Merchant, James Bowe, trading as Bowe & Christie, Sugar Merchants, North Bridge Street, Edinburgh.

James Christie was not a success in business. In June of 1870 the stoppage was reported of Messrs James Christie & Co of Glasgow, in the sugar trade, with liabilities estimated at £8,000 to £10,000.

Fordbank House was put up for sale in November 1870 and went for £2,100

The new owner was William Blackburn Craig, a dry-salter and oil merchant in Glasgow. In the years 1870 to 1873 he was involved in erecting additions and alterations to his premises in St Vincent Street as well as the erection of new buildings. He may have overstretched his finances, by March 1873 Fordbank House was once again up for sale.

The Notice of Sale give a full description of Fordbank House at that time.

3 Public Rooms, 5 Bedrooms, Bathroom, Pantry, Kitchen and Servants accommodation. There is a Byre, Stable, Coach House and other Outbuildings; also a Porters Lodge. The ground extends to about 10 acres enclosed.

The next owner and occupier was James Stewart, another Glasgow merchant, sometime foreign and colonial merchant. By 1885 the house and grounds were in possession of heritable creditors and the house was occupied by Henry David Crailsheim, as tenant

Henry David Crailsheim was born in Glasgow of a German father and a Belgian mother. He, his wife Maria and son Harry had only recently left Dunblane, their son Edward was born at Fordbank abt. 1888. The family were co-partners in the firm of Crailsheim & Herman, Foreign and Colonial Merchants, in Glasgow
By 1891 they had left Fordbank House and were resident in Lochridge House, Stewarton, Ayrshire.

Alexander Fullerton, Engineer and Ironfounder, next took ownership and occupation of Fordbank, sometime prior to 1891. He was born in Paisley, son of Alexander Fullerton, a partner in the Paisley shipbuilding company of Fullerton, Hodgart and Barclay. He continued with the company after his father retired in 1885.

Alexander was unmarried, as were his four sisters who shared the house with him. When he died in May 1911, Fordbank House was again up for sale.

1913, September 11th, Major Edward Howard Thornbrough Parsons, Chief Constable in the Metropolitan Police (Retired) married Marion Marjorie Winifred Glen Glen-Coats, only daughter of Sir Thomas Glen-Coats of Ferguslie Park, and took up residence in their marital home, Fordbank House.

Mrs Parsons was an enthusiastic supporter of the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Hunt. She bred horses, hunters, with great success, and presumably was instrumental in erecting the stables to the rear of the house which are still in use today under the ownership of the Fordbank Livery and Equi Centre.

In November 1931 a new company was formed, The Crossford Estates Co. Fordbank, Milliken Park: "A private unlimited co. 'to aquire, manage & develop the landed Estates of Fordbank, Crossford/Corseford etc, in Renfrewshire etc.' Capital, £20,000 in £1-00 shares. Mr & Mrs Parsons & Miss Irene Philip, all of Fordbank, Milliken Park, Renfrewshire." The Parsons also had the estate of Lephenstrath at Southend, Kintyre,

With the coming of war in 1939, Fordbank was made available to the Public Health Dept. of Renfrewshire County Council, and used as an annex to the Thornhill Maternity Hospital. Strangely, it was known as the Gryffe Hospital, Kilbarchan.

Major Parsons died in August 1946, his wife Marion about 1948. The Property was once again on the market. The Stables were sold by October, the rest of the estate was acquired by the Welfare Services Committee in November 1948.

It was purchased at a cost of £4,000, including 7 acres and a lodge house, also the lease of the gardeners cottage at £35 per annum. Total cost estimated at £15,000 for furniture and fittings. The work was undertaken by J.Y.Keanie Ltd. of Johnstone.

It was officially opened on 19th May 1950 as an old peoples residential home with accommodation for 30 occupants, the first of whom were expected to move in the following week. It was the first home of its kind to be completed in Renfrewshire.

The opening ceremony was attended by 27 local dignitaries including Mr Norman Keanie, 27 other invitations were declined. The opening was performed by Baillie P. R. Jacobs, chairman of the Councils Welfare Services Committee. Afternoon tea was provided by Mr Jas. R McKay, The Clock Café, Thornhill.

Fordbank House continued as a home for old folk for 27 years. In September 1977 the authorities in the Social Work Dept. decided to transfer the residents to Stewart House, a purpose built home in Renfrew.

This caused outrage to many Johnstone residents, particularly as Fordbank was then to provide accommodation for 38 homeless men when it re-opened in January 1979

The Building was declared surplus to requirements by the Councils Social Works Dept. in May 1993, the residents were re-located and by September Fordbank House was closed.

In December1994 Strathclyde Region were expecting to have sold Fordbank House to a businesswoman, Mrs Maria Sutcliffe, for around £200,000 by the turn of the year.
It was understood that Mrs Sutcliffe was acting as an individual buyer and not as part of a bigger company.

The house was eventually demolished, the site cleared and is now a Private Housing Estate.

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