Thomas Johnston

Thomas Johnston was born into a conservative and Presbyterian household in Kirkintilloch in 1881. The oldest of four children, Johnston was educated at Lairdslaw public school, Lenzie Academy and as mature student at the University of Glasgow. When he left school to work as a clerk, he became interested in the politics of the Independent Labour party and Fabian socialism. At the age of twenty-two, Johnston became a representative for the Independent Labour Party (ILP). During his time as local councillor in Kirkintilloch between 1913 and 1922, Johnston fronted a number of projects implementing the ILP's idea of municipal socialism, or public provision of services through a common good fund. These experiments included a piggery, goat herd, kitchen and restaurant, baths, and a municipal bank, as well as a cinema - the Municipal Pictures at the town hall. In 1906, Johnston founded the weekly newspaper Forward, the leading socialist newspaper in Scotland before 1930. Apart from prolific journalism, he also published Our Scots Noble Families (1909) and The History of the Working Classes in Scotland (1920). He was also involved in organisations such as the City of Glasgow Friendly Society and the Empire Marketing Board. Upon leaving Kirkintilloch as local councillor in 1922, Johnston became Labour MP for West Stirlingshire and his time in national politics was crowned when he served successfully as Scottish Secretary from 1941 to 1945. As a national politician, Johnston contributed to the empowerment of local authorities, for instance by bringing about the Housing (Scotland) Act of 1930 to subsidise slum clearances, and furthered Scotlandís autonomy by creating a council of state with legislative powers in 1941. Research by Julia Bohlmann.

Source: Graham Walker, ‘Johnston, Thomas (1881—1965)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011
Strathkelvin District Council, Tom Johnston , 1985, Kirkintilloch council archive, REF 941.37B