52 Ancestors – #14 Charles Johnston

I have been attempting to tidy up my hard drive and came across this piece on Charles Johnston. Why recreate what has already been written. 🙂 It is a mixture of details – those of my family and those of the times. Bare with any inaccuracies as this is a period I am still trying to wrap my head around.

Charles Johnston was born abt 1833 in Ireland. In 1850, he married Mary Ann Brown in Ballymena, County Antrim. She was born abt 1831 in Ireland.

Charles and Mary Ann were married during the famine and in the years following they emigrated to Lanarkshire in Scotland.

Charles and Mary Ann had 9 children: Alexander (born abt 1856), Charles (born abt 1858), Thomas (born 1860), Hugh (born 1862), Robert (born 1864), William (born abt 1867), Mary Ann (born 1868), Elizabeth (born 1870), John (born 1872).


I believe that the Johnstonʼs were Ulster Scots. In 1610, after the Nine Years War, the counties of Antrim and Down were left devastated. It was depopulated and the land was barren. The English Crown began a process of resettling the Province of Ulster, specifically the counties of Antrim and Down, with English, Scots and Welsh settlers. This resettling continued into the 1700ʼs.

In 1641, a catholic rebellion was launched against protestant resettlers. Thousands of protestants were killed by catholics who had been dispossessed of their land. This led to a period of war from 1641 through to 1653 with much of the fighting in the province of Ulster. Atrocities were committed by all and poisoned the relationships between religious groups and communities for many generations.

In the period 1688 – 1691, the Williamite War was fought in Ireland. The Catholics were backing James II who had been deposed by William of Orange during the Glorious Revolution. The Jacobites (Irish catholics) controlled most of Ireland but by 1689, the Ulster Protestants had gained control of Ulster. In the next two years, they captured the rest of Ireland.

With these victories, the protestants held power. Both the Roman Catholics and the Presbyterians (mainly Scots Irish) were discriminated against under the Penal Laws and were unable to gain full political rights enjoyed by their english counterparts.

In the 1690ʼs, a famine in Ireland sent tens of thousands of Scots to Ireland causing them to be the largest group in Ulster.

In the 1790ʼs the Catholics and Presbyterians united to form the United Irishman movement and it had a strong following in Counties Antrim and Down. At the same time there was still violence between the Catholics and Protestants, although mainly Anglicans. The Battle of the Diamond in 1795 resulted in the deaths of 100 or more and the foundation of the Orange Order. Tensions increased as the Penal Laws were relaxed allowing Catholics to purchase land and many began to do business in the linen trade. The Catholics were harassed by the Protestant and the Presbyterian groups – it is estimated that up to 7000 Catholics were expelled from Ulster during this time.

In 1798 the United Irishmen (mainly Presbyterian) rebelled in Ulster against the British Authorities. The British Authorities contained the rebellion and employed severe repression. This with the gradual abolition of religious discrimination after the Act of Union in 1800, led to the Presbyterians identifying more with their Anglican neighbours than their Catholic ones.

In the 1800ʼs, Ulster was the most prosperous province in Ireland. The potato blight was first reported in some european countries in June 1845. By August, the disease appeared in England and a month later in County Antrim. The majority of this crop survived and the last healthy crop until 1850.

“The House of Commons introduced ther Rate-in-Aid Bill in 1849 which set about increasing the levels of financial assistance and support that Poor Law Unions were obliged to provide to the needy and transferring the bill for famine relief from the British to the Irish taxpayer.”

Reference – Wikipedia, Ulster, http://www.wikipedia.com

“The trauma generated by the potato blight was manipulated to present a scenario of north-east versus the rest of Ireland in which ʻAntrim, Armagh and Downʼ (the three richest and most Protestant counties in Ireland) ʻwere to be made the preserves of the paupers of Connaught to graze on.ʼ [Kinealy, This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-1852, p.260]. The result was that, in 1851, Ulster had the highest arrears of the four provinces. However, in terms of mortality during the tragedy, the town of Belfast suffered as much as the rest of Ireland and indeed, more than the others.” – Sean Stitt, “The Roles & Attitudes of Irish Protestants During the Potato Famine”, Irquas Insight No 2.

It was during this time that Charles and Mary Ann emigrated to Scotland. I suspect that they were greatly affected by the famine, whether directly or through the increased taxation and found that they would be better off looking for opportunities elsewhere.


“The census of 1841 listed 125,000 Irish-born individuals in Scotland, and in the famine of 1848 there were up to 1000 new arrivals a week from Ireland into Glasgow: such a volume of immigration seemed menacing in itself, but there were other reasons to worry. The vast majority of migrants arrived from the province of Ulster, already accustomed to sectarian bitterness. There is little doubt that the Ulster Protestant immigrant, very often already bearing a Scottish surname, found it easier to integrate than the Catholic, and aggressively asserted his Orange and anti-papist sentiments as a way of allying himself o the native Scots and disassociating himself from his fellow Irishmen.” – T C Smout, ʻA Century of the Scottish People, 1830 – 1950ʼ, Fontana Press, 1987.

The family arrived in Scotland after 1851 (as they do not appear in the census) and before March 1856 when Alexander was born. It seems Alexander was born in Airdrie (20 Mill Mynd?). They were living in the village of Greenhill, Shotts in 1861 at house no 28. Strangely, Charles is listed at house no 27. In 1871, they are still in Greenhill although at house no 20. Charles worked in the Iron Mines as in 1856 his occupation was Ironstone Miner, in 1861, Ironstone Drawer and 1871, Ironstone MIner.


Shotts – A Village Built on Coal and Iron
SHOTTS HISTORY GROUP – http://www.monklands.co.uk/shotts/

Shotts is situated half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh and was reputedly called after the legendary giant “BERTRAM de SHOTTS”. Although adjacent to many of the traditional coach roads of bye-gone days it originally consisted of five villages – Dykehead,Calderside, Stane, Springhill and Torbothie with the main interest then around the works area of Calderside. Allanton, Hartwood and Eastfield are now regarded as being “Shotts”.

Shotts really “took off” when the Iron Works started in 1802, ironstone having been mined on Muldron moor near Shotts. Pig iron was made and distributed world-wide. This encouraged an influx of workers into the community, some indeed originating from the Cornwall mines and arriving in Shotts via the Leadhills mines. Coal was subsequently discovered and the “lid was off” so to speak. In the late 19th century there was a large intake of Irish workers, demonstrated by the census returns for 1881 and 1891.

The coal industry at its inception was a series of mines dotted over the area. This later led to the sinking of deep mines as these little seams ran out or were no longer economically viable. These pits were very wet pits and were owned by various factions, some were owned by the Shotts Ironworks Company. Housing was mainly in minersʼ rows.

Around the mid eighteen hundreds the railways came to Shotts and there was a large network of railways around the mines and pits.
Main workshops existed within the Shotts Ironworks employing all classes of craftsmen.

Of interest is the slogan SHOTTS LIGHTS THE WORLD – this because gas lamp standards were made in abundance here and exported worldwide. Relics of the iron works still remain at the ‘Works Corner’ – the water tower, part of the retaining wall and pipes for the power condensers. In this area today we have the Health Centre (on the site of the actual furnaces) the Library, the Leisure Centre and the War Memorial.

In the hard time of the pits, “truck” shops were the rule of the day when men were obliged to buy inferior goods at superior prices in the stores provided by the management. This in turn led to the setting up of the Co-operative movement with the Shotts and Dykehead Co-operative Society Ltd. There were branches all over the town – Dykehead, Calderside, Torbothie, Stane , Springhill and Allanton.

Religion originally centred in St. Catherineʼs at Shottskirk, the Parish church for the area. Shotts itself, as it grew, had a United Free Church (Erskine), Calderhead Church, Congregational Church, Baptist Church, Mission Hall, Gospel Hall, Salvation Army, Episcopal Church and St Patrickʼs Roman Catholic Church – this latter was originally based at Stane but moved centrally around 100 years ago. Amalgamation of churches has taken place recently.

The church was responsible for schooling until the Education Act came into being in 1872. The first school was at Calderhead and as the needs arose schools were opened at Dykehead, Stane, St Patrickʼs and Allanton.

Hartwood Hospital opened in 1894 but an “asylum” was in existence prior to this at Liquo. This was subsequently extended to take in the Hartwoodhill Estate (at one time the home of Lord Deas known as “the hanging judge”). In its heyday there were 1910 beds and it was the largest mental hospital in Scotland. It was self-sufficient in every way and provided employment for many people from the Shotts itself had its own Infectious Diseases Hospital in the Shotts Sanatorium – mainly for tuberculosis, the scourge of the early nineteen hundreds. This latterly became a geriatric unit before its closure. It is now Benhar Cemetery.
In 1867 until 1910 a Curling Club existed. Demonstrating the fact that winters were colder was the fact that not many games were abandoned or cancelled.

The playing of quoits – indeed a Quoiting Club was a mining recreation and men played for a Plaque.
The Minersʼ Welfare Institute was built in 1924 and housed billiards, swimming baths (water polo teams participating country-wide), tennis, bowls and a large hall for dancing and concerts and social occasions. A library was housed here.

The Ironworks had tennis courts and a bowling green; indeed the “Shotts Ironworks Bowling Club” remains today and has been in existence for more than 100 years.


Between 1881 and 1891, Charles arrived in Australia. I have not been able to determine which ship he arrived on. Nor do I know for certain which family members emigrated. I know that his daughter, Eliza emigrated and believe five of his sons also emigrated (Alexander, Thomas, Hugh, William, and John).

In 1887, Charles and Mary Annʼs youngest daughter, Elizabeth (Eliza) married Robert Snedden in West Maitland, NSW. These are my great grandparents and there story is begins here.

Charles died late June 1907 as he was buried on 26 June 1907. The funeral was held at his daughter, Eliza’s in Maitland St, Kurri Kurri. He was buried in Sandgate Cemetery in the Presbyterian Section (Section 18NE, Lot 44).

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One Response to 52 Ancestors – #14 Charles Johnston

  1. Pingback: Don’t You Know Who I Am !! | Laney's Past

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