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Photo of William Shawhill Johnston

William Shawhill Johnston

Electrical Engineer
Birthplace Blackburn EnglandPlace of Residence at HM Factory Gretna Rigg ScotlandPlace of Death Liverpool Date of Birth: July 27, 1878 Date of Death: April 19, 1963


William Shawhill Johnston

Birth 27 Jul 1878 • Blackburn, Lancashire, England

Death 19 Apr 1963 • Liverpool, England

Family: Parents were Frank Johnston (1835 – 1881) a cotton manufacturer from Blackburn and Eliza Fraser (1835 – 1906) from Alloa, Clackmannanshire. William was the youngest of ten children, his father died when he was 2. His mother Eliza worked as a music teacher to support the family after her husband’s death. 

Married: Jessie Evelyn Rowe on 17 July 1906 • Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Jessie Evelyn Row was a school teacher before marriage

Birth 2 May 1882 • Kelstern, Lincolnshire, England

Death 11 May 1963 • Prescot, Lancashire, England

Family: Jessie’s parents were William Rowe (1845 – 1915), wheelwright and Emma Lidgard (1843 – 1930), housemaid at a hotel in Beverly, both from near Louth, Lincolnshire. Jessie was the youngest of their three daughters.

William Johnston was the Electrical Engineer at HM Factory Gretna from 1917 – 1921, he’s listed on the voting register for 1918 – 19 as living at the Power House, Rigg (Powerhouse Terrace) along with Jessie Johnston. The family moved to Rigg from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire where we believe he was working for Vickers.

His signature is on the presentation certificate given to John Charles Burnham which is in the Devil’s Porridge Museum. 

In 1921 (after HM Factory was closed?) he became the Engineer and Manager for Dumfries Electricity Board, based at Leafield, Dumfries until 1929, when he moved to St Helens, Lancashire to become Borough Electrical Engineer and Manager. 

The Institution of Electrical Engineers list of members gives addresses/workplaces (from Ancestry):

Registration date: 1906

  • 1917: Kirtle Water, Rigg Power House, Gretna
  • 1919: Ditto
  • 1921: Ditto
  • 1925: Dumfries Electricity Works, Leafield, Dumfries
  • 1927: Ditto

From Kelly’s Directory of the Electrical Industry and Wireless and Allied Trades 1926, he’s listed as the Engineer and Manager of Dumfries Burgh Electricity Supply Dept.

William and Jessie had two sons, who both lived with them at the Power House, Rigg:

Eric Francis Johnston 

Birth 7 May 1907 • Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Death 9 Feb 1981 • St Helens, Lancashire, England

Also an electrical engineer, Eric studied at Glasgow University and became a graduate member of The Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1929. Apart from service in the Royal Navy during the war, he managed the High Voltage Insulator Department for Pilkington Brothers Ltd in St Helens for most of his career.

Ronald Johnston 

Birth 20 Jun 1911 • Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England

Death 10 Aug 1924 • Port St Mary, Rushen, Isle of Man

Ronald is listed in the school register in the museum on 4 September 1917. He died of tuberculous on a family holiday to the Isle of Man aged 13 and was buried on the island.

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