James Johnston & Son

Plumbers, gasfitters and bell hangers

James Johnston & Son, plumbers, gasfitters and bellhangers, commenced as Johnston & Ballantine, 'plumbers, gasfitters, and zinc workers' at 165 Renfield Street, Glasgow, around 1857. 1 James Johnston (c. 1822–1898) was a master plumber from Stenton in East Lothian. 2 By 1871, he employed six men and boys, including his eldest son, John (born c. 1850). 3 Johnston dissolved his partnership with James R. Ballantine in 1876, and thereafter continued as sole trader in the same premises, by then at 159–161 Renfield Street. 4

Johnston's other son, Wilson (born c. 1857), originally trained as a watchmaker, but seems to have been the one who continued the plumbing business, which appeared as '& Son', in the local directory from 1877. 5 They briefly opened a branch off Paisley Road West, but remained in Renfield Street until 1904. Wilson Johnston made his family home in the railway-commuter suburb of Bishopbriggs in the mid-1880s, and opened a branch there in the late 1890s. 6 This was probably to take advantage of the steady building of middle-class villas along one of the main routes into northern Glasgow, which also traversed the industrial district of Springburn.

James Johnston, who latterly resided with his son, died in 1898. 7 The business, now including Wilson's own son as a clerk, moved between several locations in the Cowcaddens area of north-central Glasgow, but was sold to fellow plumbers and sanitary engineers, Robert Munro & Son, in 1910. 8 By 1911, Wilson Johnston and his children had emigrated to Canada. 9


1: Glasgow Post Office Directory,1857–8, p. 140.

2: Census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 26 May 2013].

3: Census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 26 May 2013].

4: Edinburgh Gazette, 17 November 1876, p. 830; Glasgow Post Office directories, 1855–1911.

5: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1877–8, p. 257; census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 26 May 2013].

6: Glasgow Post Office directories, 1855–1911.

7: Wills and Testaments returns, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [accessed 27 May 2013].

8: Edinburgh Gazette, 19 April 1910, p. 423; census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 26 May 2013]; Glasgow Post Office directories, 1855–1911.

9: Canadian census 1911, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 27 May 2011].