BORN of Scottish parents in the North of Ireland in 1842, the author of the "Chronicles of Glenbuckie" came to Glasgow at the age of three, and has remained a Glaswegian since. He began active life in one of the public offices of the city, and at the same time improved his leisure by attending evening classes. His first public appointment was the Secretaryship of Glasgow Athenaeum, then in Ingram Street, and he still grimly recalls how he and old Donald Clark, the janitor, had to perform between them the duties of secretary, superintendent, librarian, janitor, and boy. So well, however, did he serve the institution that, on resigning, after four and a half years of the post, he was entertained to a complimentary dinner by the directors, and presented with a handsome souvenir. His new appointment was that of Secretary to the Western Infirmary, then being opened, and the success of his efforts for that institution may be judged from the fact that in thirty-three years the annual income and capital of the Infirmary rose from nothing at all to £30,000 and £80,000 respectively. Previously, as manager of a Glasgow newspaper, he had gained some knowledge of press life, and in 1874 he was Secretary of the Glasgow musical Festival, and subsequently Honorary Secretary of the Choral and Orchestral Union which sprang from it. He also became Secretary and Treasurer to the Glasgow Hospital Sunday Fund, the Lady Hozier Convalescent Home at Lanark, and other institutions. He was one of the original members of the Glasgow Ballad Club, of which he became President in 1904 on the death of Mr. William Freeland, and he was one of the founders of the Pen and Pencil Club, and Lay Vice-President of the art Club.
Mr. Johnston was one of the young men whom the late Dr. Hedderwick gathered round him in the sixties and seventies, and the first products of his pen appeared in the columns of the Glasgow Citizen over the signature of "Arthur," when William Black in the same columns was writing under the name of "Alton." Then his amusing sketches of "Martha Spreull," a "single wumman," since collected, appeared in the pages of Quiz. In 1877 a novel, "The Dawsons of Glenara," was published anonymously, and "The Mystery of Glensheila" was contributed to the Glasgow Weekly Herald. The author's best-known and most characteristic work, however, has been the succession of novels published under his own name - the "Chronicles of Glenbuckie" in 1890, "Kilmallie" in 1891, and "Dr. Congalton's Legacy" in 1896. With their racy pictures of Ayrshire life these stand in the same category as the earlier works of William Black, George Macdonald, and J. M. Barrie. Mr. Johnston has also written a good deal of poetry, and his contributions are among the best in the two volumes of the Ballad Club. Articles, tales, and poems from his pen have from time to time as well attracted attention in the pages of Blackwood, Good Words, and other periodicals.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)