Johnstone High Street in 1989
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||PA5, PA6, PA9, PA10|
The town lies 3 miles (5 km) west of neighbouring Paisley, 12 miles (19 km) west of the centre of the city of Glasgow and 12 miles (19 km) north east of Kilwinning. Part of the biggest conurbation in Scotland, Johnstone is at the western edge of the Greater Glasgow Urban Area.
Johnstone was largely a planned community which grew up around the house of Easter Cochrane, later known as Johnstone Castle, seat of the Houston or Houstoun family who gained their name from the nearby village of Houston. In 1782, the Laird, George Houstoun, commissioned designs for a series of regular residential streets which now form the town centre. At this early stage of development, the town’s population including the local estate and rural hinterland was around 1,500. Two mirroring civic squares were also constructed in the town: Houstoun Square and Ludovic Square, the latter named for the Laird's son, and by 1794 the town had gained its current parish church. Johnstone was raised to the status of a police burgh with significant local powers, a status which is now defunct.
Industrial development brought both prosperity and poverty to the community. Coal mining occurred in Johnstone, although its main industry was related to the thread and cotton industries, with mills powered by the Black Cart Water which runs to the north of Johnstone. A six-storey cotton mill, one of the largest in Scotland, was built in 1782, and was rescued from failure by Robert Burns of Paisley sometime before 1812. Burns introduced Richard Arkwright's methods for spinning cotton. As the community expanded, slum conditions formed in part of the town: the population by 1831 had increased to a sizeable 5,600. Unfortunately, the owners of Johnstone mill did not make much philanthropic progress among their worker population, and the situation was not addressed until the 1930s by a significant expansion of the size of Johnstone to include a number of purpose-built residential estates.
Much of Johnstone’s feudal heritage has disappeared. With the death of the last Laird in 1931, Johnstone Castle fell into disrepair before being largely demolished in 1950. The remaining tower was purchased in 2001 and is now a private residence. On the site of the former grounds now lies two housing estates, Johnstone Castle and Cochrane Castle. Embedded within Cochrane Castle is the Cochrane Castle Golf Club, which once held the world record for the longest hole. 
Thorn Public School, as it was originally called, opened in 1904 on a site that is now occupied by a housing estate, Thornhill Gardens and was demolished in 1990 and a new Thorn Primary School opened in 1988.
In 1950 St. David's Primary School was built along with its sister school Cochrane Castle Primary School. In 2007 the two schools were housed in a new shared building just outside Thomas Shanks Public Park.
Johnstone High School opened on its present site in March 1965, the previous building having burnt down in 1960. Where the old school stood in Ludovic Square there is now a modern health centre. The original St Cuthberts High School was built adjacent to Johnstone High School and shared the same driveway and car parks. The school closed in 1972 and moved to a new site in Hallhill Road Spateston that year. The original school was demolished and replaced by a housing development to the left of the driveway of Johnstone High School.
In 1967, St Curthberts High School was built and established. The school closed at the end of the summer term 2006 along with St. Brendan's High School in Linwood due to falling rolls and the buildings' poor state of repair. These were replaced by a new build St. Benedict's High School, named in honour of St Benedict of Nursia the patron saint of Europe and of students. The old St. Cuthbert's building was used to house several schools (including Johnstone High School from 2008-2009) while their own premises were being refurbished. Similarly to the original St Cuthberts School, the building has subsequently been demolished, with a new housing development taking its place.
Johnstone is served by Glasgow International Airport, which is located 3 1⁄2 miles (5.6 km) northeast of the town. Moreover, Prestwick International Airport is a 30-to-40-minute train journey from Johnstone railway station.
McGill's Bus Service Limited operate the majority of local services from their depot in the west end of Johnstone.
Key Coaches are a local service operator based in Elderslie.
- X6a Johnstone – Glasgow : Express service via Braehead
- 1: Johnstone – Kilmacolm : formerly Riverside Transport
- 8: Johnstone – Linwood Circular : formerly Riverside Transport (renumbered)
- 19 Johnstone Station – Bridge of Weir – Houston – Inchinnan Industrial Estate – Paisley : formerly Riverside Transport
- 20: Spateston-Johnstone Centre-Paisley-Gallowhill (via Elderslie and the Royal Alexandria Hospital)
- 38: Spateston/Kilbarchan-(Cochrane Castle which is on the Spateston Route)- Johnstone Centre - Paisley - Glasgow
- 904: (Hourly Service) Largs - Kilbirnie - Beith - Howwood - Johnstone - Paisley
Other services are provided by many other operators. They are as follows:
- 1: Johnstone – Johnstone Castle : Key Coaches
- 4: Johnstone – Lochwinnoch : Key Coaches
- 5: Johnstone – Spateston : Key Coaches
- 307: Johnstone – Lochwinnoch : McColl's
Johnstone is linked to Glasgow Central, Paisley and the Ayrshire coast by the Johnstone railway station which is located at the east of the town on Thorn Brae. A second unmanned station Milliken Park railway station lies at the west end of the town, just off the Cochranemill road. The railway line runs through the cutting of the old Glasgow–Ardrossan canal, although the route of the canal runs under the original bridge, Dick's Bridge, at the bottom of the Thorn Brae, where the canal basin was situated and in winter, the rim of the canal basin sometimes becomes visible.
It may be noted that a second railway line ran through the town serving the villages of Kilbarchan, Bridge of Weir, and Kilmacolm; the line now forms part of the Clyde to Forth cycle route (National Cycle Route 75). It had a station serving the Northern, more industrial areas of town, Johnstone North railway station.
- William Clunas (Billy Clunas, April 1899~September 1967) – Scotland and Sunderland footballer. Played in the first England V's Scotland match at Wembley Stadium 1924
- Lauren Vidler, - rower
- Johnny Grant (Jock Strap) – vocalist of 1970s punk band The Straps, born 1960 and grew up in Johnstone Castle.
- Adam Brown – professional hockey player; born in Johnstone 02/04/1920, active in the NHL 1941–1952.
- Tommy Bryce – professional footballer
- Hunter Davies – journalist, author and broadcaster
- Robert Pollock Gillespie FRSE – mathematician
- Renee Houston – music hall and comedy actress; born in Johnstone in 1902, attended St. Margaret's Primary School in Johnstone
- Phyllis Logan – actress; attended Johnstone High School in the 1970s
- John Pitcairn, Jr. – Scottish-American industrialist; born in Johnstone, emigrated to the United States, aged five
- Gordon Ramsay – celebrity chef and TV host, born in Johnstone
- Peter Tobin – serial killer, born in Johnstone in 1946
- Jim Leighton – professional footballer, attended St.Cuthbert's Secondary in Johnstone
- Annie McGuire – BBC Journalist, born in Elderslie, attended St.Cuthbert's Secondary in Johnstone
- Sir George Houston Reid – 4th Prime Minister of Australia (18 August 1904 – 5 July 1905). George Reid was Prime Minister for ten months and 17 days. He was Australia's first federal Leader of the Opposition and the federal government’s first High Commissioner to the UK.
- Tommy Turner – professional footballer
- John Deans – professional footballer
- Eddie Blair – jazz session trumpeter, in the big bands of the 1950s and 1960s including: The John Dankworth 7, Ted Heath Orchestra and The Ronnie Hazelhurst Orchestra throughout the 1970s and 1980s as well as for the big screen, notably the trumpet solo 'Take Me Home' from the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
- Alexander McLachlan – poet, who was born at the Brig in 1818.
- Sir William Arrol – Worked as a boy at the Johnstone mills before becoming the architect of the Forth Rail Bridge and the Tower Bridge in London.
- Dougie Vipond – Born Douglas Vipond, 15 October 1966, Elderslie, is a Scottish musician and television personality. He studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, graduating in 1985. He was one of the founding members of Scottish soft rock / pop band, Deacon Blue.
- Richard Madden (born 18 June 1986) – Scottish stage, film, and television actor, appearing in the HBO series Game of Thrones and Disney's Cinderella.
- Renfrewshire Community Website – Johnstone Archived 2009-03-21 at the Wayback Machine.
- List of railway station names in English, Scots and Gaelic – NewsNetScotland Archived 2013-01-22 at the Wayback Machine.
- Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba ~ Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland
- (Our History and Heritage) Homepage[permanent dead link]
- Visiting Renfrewshire[permanent dead link]
- University of Edinburgh
- Anthony Cooke, The Rise and Fall of the Scottish Cotton Industry, 1778-1914 (Manchester University Press, 2010), p. 30.
- Anthony Cooke, The Rise and Fall of the Scottish Cotton Industry, 1778-1914 (Manchester University Press, 2010), p. 71-2.
- Mansfield, Susan (21 March 2009). "Up and Coming: Richard Madden – Young man on a role". The Scotsman. thescotsman.scotsman.com. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
- Cooper, Neil (12 June 2007). "Less room for doom in the great outdoors". Herald Scotland. heraldscotland.com. Retrieved 13 July 2010.