By now Johnston had thrown himself into several fields of sport in Shanghai. In 1877 he was elected onto the committee of the Shanghai Gymnasium Club. At the 1878 Annual General Meeting of the Shanghai Cricket Club, he was holding the role of the Honorary Secretary. In May of that year, in celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday, a holiday was declared and Johnston was awarded the honour of selecting one of the teams to play in a celebration match. Sadly, not everybody was keen to play, the match report going at some length to reprimand the less enthusiastic club members:
We regret we cannot say so much regarding the game; for although efforts had been made by the more energetic members to get, together complete teams, the efforts failed, and it was found necessary to engage the services of several Chinese, who, under various fictitious names were made either fieldsmen or batsmen as occasion required. This was not as it should be, and for the first time in connection with the Shanghai Cricket Club we have to complain of a very apparent lack of energy on the part of some who ought to have donned the flannels on an occasion like that under notice. Surely the announcement of a match at Cricket, the chief among British games, should have been sufficient to draw together twenty-two players from among the number known to remain in Shanghai after all withdrawals for Home or elsewhere; but, no, there were the Celestials, energetic, but inexperienced, whose appearance in the field was anything but complimentary to the absent members of the S.C.C.; and it is hoped that as the season advances, a similar sight will not again be witnessed.
Despite the setback, Johnston continued to play cricket throughout the year, one of the keener members of the club, in what appears to have been a less than busy year. Once again, he rowed in the annual eights international match for Scotland, his weight starting to creep up, weighing in at a sturdier 13 stone and 4 pounds. The race was one of the closest for a long time, the English winning by only 4½ feet over the 1½ mile course. He was re-elected onto the Shanghai Gymnasium Committee when the matter of the Shanghai Volunteer Corp using the Club’s gas supply at their meetings in the gymnasium was discussed. It was agreed to ask the Shanghai Municipal Council to pay for it.
The travails of the Shanghai Cricket Club continued into the 1879 season, with William still its Honorary Secretary. He was clearly a dedicated and tenacious man. The woes of the club were reported in the AGM report, the difficulty of raising a team was discussed, and the hope that the fact that Saturday was fast becoming a half day holiday, even recognised as such by the banks, gave hope for optimism that scratch games on that day would be more successful than in previous years, especially in the light of ‘new blood in the Club’.
In November 1879, Johnston attended the Shanghai Temperance Society’s fortnightly entertainment meeting. The evening’s ‘entertainment’ included a speaker who spoke at considerable length about the charitable efforts to help with the famine in the North of China. The reported, which is a good example of how Shanghailanders anticipated side benefits from charitable endeavours, noted that ‘The speaker went on to state that the people in these districts did appreciate what had been done by foreigners for them, and asserted his belief that it would have a very powerful effect in the future in opening up the country, not only to the merchant but also to the Gospel. The Rev. gentleman was listened to most, attentively, and sat down amid prolonged applause. Sir. W. Johnston then sang "Mavourneen," and was encored, but he simply bowed an acknowledgment of the compliment.’ A few weeks later at another Temperance meeting with an estimate of more than 500 guests, Johnston once again sang a song, his choice being the Yeoman’s Wedding.
Extract fron the 1874 China Directory
1882 Hong List extract showing Oriental Bank Company
Sir William Johnston was born 31 Jul 1849 in Kentish Town, London and baptised at Old Church, Saint Pancras in London in 1850. He was the 9th Baronet of Johnston, Hilton and Caskieben, of Aberdeenshire in Scotland one of the oldest families in the county. The baronetcy was first awarded on 31 March 1626 to Sir George Johnston. Burke’s peerage records that the ninth Baron ‘was born prior to his parents' marriage but legitimated under Scots Law by their subsequent marriage on 11 Sept 1855. ... He was the son of Sir William Bacon Johnston of Caskieben, 8th Bt. and Mary Ann Tye. … He succeeded to the title of 9th Baronet Johnston, of Caskieben on 2 August 1865.’
The 1851 census finds him living in St Pancras in London, with his parents, five sisters and one servant. Ten years later, the 1861 census shows that the family had moved back to Scotland, living at Hilton House, Old Machar, Aberdeenshire. This property had been acquired by the 6th Baron, also named William Johnston, the great grandfather of Shanghai William. The 6th Baron had earned his fortune after he had joined the British Navy becoming a commander of a warship. On the death of his father in 1794, he left the Navy to take on the responsibility of being the Baron after restoring the family fortune lost by the 5th Baron in around 1730. The fortune was lost again by the seventh Baronet leaving Sir William Bacon Johnston, the eight Baronet bankrupt.
William Johnston's obituary stated that he had attended Merchiston School in Edinburgh. After the 1861 census, we next see William Johnston in Shanghai in September 1873, playing in the first cricket match of the season. The match was a curtain raiser with the Shanghai Cricket Club XI matched against 16 men, including Johnston. The report read, ‘We are glad to have to chronicle the first match of the 1873 autumn season of the S. C. C., and to see the green sward of the cricket field covered again with active beings in white flannel engaged at this noblest of English games. We are intense admirers of the game, and trust that the suffering entailed on the players in this match, from sun-burnt noses and arms, will not deter them from arranging for another soon.’ A 'Johnston' is recorded as playing in other matches during the season, most likely this was William.
In the same autumn, he was training with the Shanghai Scottish rowing eight on Soochow Creek in readiness for the annual race against the Shanghai English rowing eight. Raced over 1½ miles. Johnston weighing in at 12 Stone 11 pounds
helped the Scotch team to a third successive victory.
The Oriental Bank as it looked at the time Johnston worked there
Johnston's signature on the 1911 Census form
By the time of the 1882 AGM of the Shanghai Cricket Club, Johnston had stood down as Honorary Secretary being replaced by Frederick Anderson. He was still involved in the club, for example being the auditor of the Club’s accounts
and negotiating with contractors to paint the pavilion.
In April, he was a member of the Scottish Tug of War team, pulling and losing against the German team at the Shanghai Athletic Club’s two-day Spring meet. He continued playing cricket throughout the year, appearing on a weekly basis in November. The season was to be his last in Shanghai. His contribution to the cricket club through the tough years had paid off and his last few seasons would have been most rewarding as more games were played. Sadly, for Johnston, he did not have an opportunity to play in an interport cricket match. The last match against Hong Kong had been played in 1867, before Johnston arrived in Shanghai and it was not until 1889 that they played again, an event which was in no small part helped by Johnston’s previous lengthy commitment to the Club. Johnston left Shanghai either late December 1882 or January 1883, a note in the Shanghai Gymnasium’s AGM report stating that:
Announcement for the first match of the second Shanghai Football Club
In the autumn of that year a ‘A one-off game was played between HM Navy and “The Shore”. The football game was very well promoted; the announcement in the North China Daily News on 8 November 1875 was not by the secretary of the Shanghai Football Club as had previously been the case, no official body associated itself with the announcement which read:
Gentleman willing to play are requested to meet at the BASE-BALL GROUND THIS AFTERNOON, at 4 o’clock, for the Game – after which a team will be chosen to represent ‘THE SHORE’.
The following day’s newspaper noted that the game would be fifteen aside. The subsequent match report recorded that “No goals were kicked, but the ‘Shore’ had two ‘touchdowns’’’. The fact that there were touchdowns suggests that Rugby rules were played. Johnston continued to row and play in cricket in 1876, including, ‘A match at Cricket played with sticks instead of bats... between two teams of 12 each, and [which] created considerable amusement.’
Previous Persons of the Month
Person of the Month 1 - George Michael Billings (with club 1902 to 1927)
Person of the Month 2 - Commandent Louis Guillaume Fabre (with club 1936 to 1941)
Person of the Month 3 - Victor Vause Winser Fretwell (with club 1927 to 1934)
Person of the Month 4 - Eric Byron Cumine (with club 1930 to 1934)
Person of the Month 5 - Francis Kingdon Ward (with club 1907 to 1909)
Person of the Month 6 - Percy Martin Lancaster (with club 1903 to 1913)
Person of the Month 7 - The Schlee family (with club 1886 to 1950)
Person of the Month 8 - Henry Bluett Liversedge (with Tientsin and Shanghai rugby 1927 to 1929)
Person of the Month 9 - John William Henry Burgoyne ( with club 1881 to 1885)
Person of the Month 10 - Lawrence "Lolly" Goldman (with club 1921 to 1930)
Person of the Month 11 - Alford Russell Burk (with Tientsin and Shanghai Rugby 1927 - 1930 and 1933 - 1936)
Person of the Month 12 - Barney Allen Cogsdell (with Tientsin and Shanghai Rugby 1927 - 1931 and 1933 - 1935)
Person of the Month 13 - Milton Calvin 'Slug' Marvin (with United States Fourth Marines 1929 – 1934)
Person of the Month 14 - Frederick Anderson - (with club 1882 - 1886 and 1905 - 06)
Person of the Month 15 - Steve James ‘Shanghai’ Vucic - (with the United States Fourth Marines 1935 - 1938)
Match report and teams list of the rugby match that was the catalyst for the formation of the second Shanghai Football Club
Johnstons obituary in the Aberdeen Evening Express (above) and the North China Herald (below)
‘‘‘The 9th Baronet of Caskieben’’’
Sir William Johnston (1849 – 1917)
A source referenced copy of the text below is available on request
Captain of the 1875 Shanghai Football Club team playing a one-off fixture (1875)
Player and committee member for second Shanghai Football Club (1881 – 1882)
Report of the 1875 'one-off' football match featuring Johnson
The Johnston family memorial at Old Machar
William died at the Ranche on 22 November 1917. There was a brief obituary in the North China Herald which made no mention of him living in Shanghai, referring only to his aristocratic background and the fact that he had worked for the Oriental Bank in China. The obituary published in his ancestral seat of Aberdeenshire was equally short on detail. It included the sparse fact that he had died, before going into detail about his ancestral background, finally mentioning that the funeral would take place at the place of his birth, Old Machar. His sister Emily continued to live at Buckhurst Hill until her death aged 92 in 1934.
The score card from Septmber 1873, the first evidence of Sir William in Shanghai
The songs Mavourneen and Yeoman's Wedding as sung by Johnston in 1879 (courtesy of You Tube)
It seems strange that the newspapers made only this rather terse mention of Johnston’s departure. When a person had been in Shanghai for 10 years and had played an active and committee role in so many of the city’s sports club, it would have been expected that his contributions would have been recognised, either in farewell dinners or lunches, or kind words in the AGM reports. There was none. The 1883 AGM report of the cricket club was published in detail that year, but there was no mention of Johnston’s departure, the same newspaper detailed the report of the Shanghai Rowing Club’s AGM which was also silent on the matter.
After following the life of Johnston in such detail in the newspapers of Shanghai, his departure led to virtual anonymity until the 1891 census. Here we find him living with his mother and unmarried older sister at Buckhurst Hill in Essex at the Ranche, 16 High Road. His occupation listed as Secretary. This was most likely Secretary of the Ceylon Tea Plantation Co Ltd. In 1895, the Central Tea Company of Ceylon was formed, appointing Johnston as the Secretary, and acting as agents for the Ceylon Tea Plantation Co Ltd.
His mother and sister were still living at the Ranche in the 1901 census but William’s was not there, quite possibly overseas as he cannot be traced in that census. By 1911, now aged 61, a bachelor, he has returned to the family home at the Ranche. He is listed as head of the family, his spinster sister Emily still at home, along with one servant. His occupation was now listed as a Director of the Ceylon Tea Plantation Co Ltd, a position to which he was appointed in 1909.
In the following year, the Scottish eight were again successful in their rowing race against the English, Johnston weighing 8 pounds less than the previous year. He continued playing cricket in the 1874 season, playing for Scotland in the annual fixture against the victorious English XI, and for the Shanghai Cricket Club against HMS Modeste, with a haul of seven wickets in the two-innings match.
During these years, far from following aristocratic pursuits, Johnston was working as an assistant accountant at the Oriental Bank, based on the Bund, where he remained throughout his time in Shanghai, eventually becoming the
Accountant. The Oriental Bank was the first foreign bank to open in Shanghai in 1847, with one of its main priorities to promote the opium trade. It was one of the leading banks in Shanghai until around the time that Johnston arrived but started to decline after the silver price crisis, a decline exacerbated with losses on excessive lending to the coffee plantations of Ceylon which saw it finally close down in 1884.
In May 1875, he travelled to Nagasaki in Japan with other members of the Shanghai Rowing Club to take part in the annual Nagasaki Spring Regatta, an event which also included visitors from Kobe. Johnston rowed in the Shanghai’s team of four coming last out of the three clubs.
The Autumn cricket season commenced with a game between members of the Shanghai Cricket Club aged over 30, featuring Johnston against those under 30 featuring Anderson. The youngsters won easily. Once again Johnston rowed for the Scots eight in the annual rowing regatta and played cricket for the Racquet Club in the annual fixture against the Cricket Club. The final match of the season featured the Club’s first XI, including Johnston, against the next XVII. The match report explained the reason for the game, ‘The cricket season of 1881 was brought to a close on, Saturday by a match under the above title. In a community such as ours where it is very rarely possible to play against outside teams, and where consequently matches have to be arranged among the same two or three dozen men at the most week after week, it is a matter of no little difficulty to arrange a series in which some special form of rivalry is felt by the opposing sides and which stirs up some faint resemblance of the esprit de corps that exists in all the good clubs at home, and which adds such an interest to the game there.’
The big news for Shanghai in December 1881 was that at last, a football club was started, the first since the demise of the first Shanghai Football Club in 1870. Sir William Johnston was at the forefront, playing in the four competitive games in that season. The catalyst for the new football club was the opportunity to play a match against the visiting Detached Squadron of the British Navy. The ‘Detached Squadron’ also known as the ‘Flying Squadron’ was a fleet of unarmoured ships which, as part of the British Navy, travelled on long cruises for both training purposes and to ensure that the British flag was shown off around the Colonies and other places with a British presence. The ‘Flying Squadrons’ were created in 1868 as part of a cost cutting exercise to reduce the number of ships necessary on the Empire’s many foreign stations. On 23 November 1881, four Navy ships arrived at Shanghai as part of a two-year journey that had started in England and taken in South America, the Falkland Islands, South Africa, Australia, Fiji, and Japan before arriving in China. After Shanghai, the squadron visited Amoy [Xiamen] and Hong Kong before travelling back to England via Singapore, Java, South Africa and St Vincent.
And so, after a break of six years, another ad-hoc ‘Foot-Ball’ match between Shanghai, led by Johnston, and the Navy was played. The tennis club had offered their ground for the game but it was found to be too short and so the game was played just behind the cricket pavilion inside the Race Course. Commencing at 3.40PM, forty minutes after the scheduled start, Shanghai won the toss and kicked off. A ‘fast and furious struggle commenced’. Before half time Mr Wright had ran in a try ‘in splendid manner from one end of the field to another but the Captain, Sir William Johnston failed to score the goal.’ After half time the Navy, playing in white jerseys with a crown insignia over the breast rallied, but at 4.43PM the final whistle was blown and Shanghai prevailed by a score of one try and two touch downs to two touch downs. The reporter noted that ‘the forward play on both sides was all that could be desired, Perrot and Stewart standing pre-eminent for the Shanghai team.’, adding that this was only the second time that the officers of the ‘Detached Squadron’ had been beaten, their first being in Sydney, Australia.
The match against the Detached Squadron ‘left a most agreeable impression upon both sides’, and so it was proposed ‘to establish the existing foot-ball club upon a permanent basis’. Thirty-five names had already been collected and it was hoped that the club will be ‘as representative and as cosmopolitan as possible’, for example by recruiting players from the French, German and American sections of the community. Hoping to avoid the problems that the first Shanghai Football Club had experienced (interminable arguments about which football rules to play under), the report in the newspaper made it clear that ‘the game will be ‘Rugby Union’ and according to its laws all disputes will be settled’.Sadly, the proposed return game against the ‘Detached Squadron’ could not be played due to inclement weather and the ‘squashy state of the Recreation Ground’. In the same newspaper announcing the cancellation of the game, a notice read;
A GENERAL MEETING of the New Football Club will be held at the GYMNASIUM on WEDNESDAY, the 7th instant, at 5.30PM. Everyone who has the interests of Football at heart and is desirous of joining is requested to attend.
The Rev. W L Groves chaired the meeting. Mr. Rawson was elected Captain standing against Mr. Perrot and Sir William Johnston. Perrot, who had earned an international cap for England in 1875 when a team still had twenty players, secured the position of Vice Captain by a few votes. The first game of the second Shanghai Football Club between the Captain’s XV and the Vice Captains XV, including Johnston, was played on Wednesday 14 December 1881 at the Recreation Ground. The result was not reported. The following Wednesday, a game was announced and a team listed to play against the Mi-Ho-Loongs, at least half whom had played in the previous week’s Captain’s vs. Vice Captain’s game. The Mi-Ho-Loongs (meaning ‘destroy fire dragon’) were one of the units of the volunteer Fire Brigade. In these early days, the insurance companies supported the Fire Brigade rather than being funded by the Shanghai Municipal Council.
A pickup game was played in mid-January, one week before a game against the Shanghai Rowing Club. Johnston captained this team, showing the same team wandering tendencies in rugby as he showed in cricket. Two thirds of the Rowing Club team had played in the previous two week’s fixtures. The club was making the most of a pool of about forty to forty-five players by creating teams to ensure games could be played. A detailed match report appeared the following day but omitted to mention the winner. The report seems to suggest that the Shanghai Rowing Club was victorious. The Rowing Club managed to place the ball over Shanghai’s line. Under the scoring rules of the time, the placement of the ball over the try line did not earn any points. Instead, it offered the team the chance to ‘try’ to score a goal by kicking the ball between the posts and over the crossbar, if successful, the goal was worth one point. Sir William took his chance, successfully scoring the goal. Later, Reynell from the Shanghai Rugby Club managed to place the ball over the Rowing Club’s line, but Rawson failed to score the goal on his ‘try’.
On a more sombre note, later in the month, Johnston sat as a juror in a tragic case heard by judge Hiram Shaw Wilkinson (who years later would become the first President of the Shanghai Rugby Football Club in 1904). The case involved the deaths of two men, shot by the same revolver. The first man who died was a doctor named Henry W. Yate, from the steamer Patroclus. He was accidentally shot in the head by second mate, Arthur Cato Owen, who was reported as Henry’s very good friend, as they were travelling back to their steamer after a shooting trip. In a state of shock, Arthur pointed the gun at his head and shot himself.
The apathy continued in the Shanghai Cricket Club into 1880, only 20 members out of 50 were present at the AGM presided over by Johnston, who still served as Honorary Secretary. A small loss for the year was reported suggesting that hard times had stayed with the club, although the 12 new members in the year was a cause for optimism. Things seemed to pick up in 1880, certainly more games were reported. In June Johnston twice turned out against the Shanghai Cricket Club, firstly for the Shanghai Racquet Club in the annual fixture in which he scored 73, and secondly for the Shanghai Rowing Club. A few weeks later he played for the Shanghai Cricket Club, opening the batting against HMS Encounter, being stumped for 29 in what turned into an easy victory for his team. Later in the month he was swapping teams again, playing for the Shanghai Gymnasium against the Shanghai Cricket Club.
After the summer break, regular cricket games continued in the Autumn fixtures and Johnston resumed his singing duties at the Temperance meetings, ‘Sir Wm. Johnston was called upon for the first song on the programme, Tovey's "Timber Toes" a dashing nautical melody to which the singer did ample justice, and that the audience were well pleased with it was shown by their loud applause and the demand for an encore, which must, have been gratifying to the singer, though he contented himself with merely bowing his acknowledgments.’
The 1881 Shanghai Cricket Club AGM commented on the success of the previous year with the increase in games played which could be considered a great success. Johnston was once again elected as Honorary Secretary and was joined on the committee by Frederick Anderson, recently arrived in Shanghai, who once played football for Scotland and later went onto become Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council and the second President of the Shanghai Rugby Football Club.