William Johnston (Irish politician)

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William Johnston
Member of Parliament
for Belfast South
In office
18 December 1885 – 17 July 1902
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byThomas Sloan
Personal details
Born(1829-02-22)22 February 1829
Downpatrick, Ireland
Died17 July 1902(1902-07-17) (aged 73)
Ballykilbeg, Co Down
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Harriet Allen (d.)
Arminella Frances Drew (d.)
Georgiana Barbara Hay
RelationsCharles Johnston (son)
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin
King's Inn

William Johnston (22 February 1829 – 17 July 1902) was a nineteenth-century Irish politician and member of the Orange Order. He is noted for his opposition to the Party Emblems Act and Party Processions Act, which banned Orange marches .


Johnston was the eldest son of John Brett Johnston of Ballykilbeg, co. Down, and his wife Thomasina Anne Brunette Scott, daughter of Thomas Scott. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin being awarded B.A. in 1852 and M.A. in 1856.[1] He wrote ultra-Protestant Tracts and fiercely Unionist novels during the decade and published a newspaper called The Downshire Protestant from 1855 to 1862. In 1857 he stood unsuccessfully for parliament at Downpatrick.[1]

In 1867, Johnston organised an Orange Order parade from Bangor to Newtownards in County Down despite the Party Procession Acts. The parade took part on 12 July 1867 and about 30,000 took part. Johnston was sentenced to a short term in prison the next year for his actions.[2] He was elected as Member of Parliament for Belfast in 1868 and held the seat until 1878. He was called to the Bar at King's Inns Dublin in 1872.[1] Johnston was also a prominent early supporter of the campaign for female suffrage and other social reforms.[3]

Johnston was Inspector of Fisheries in Ireland from 1878 to 1885, when he was dismissed for a speech in the General Synod of the Church of Ireland.[4] Following his dismissal, he was elected an independent MP for Belfast South later the same year. He won the seat by a large majority in the 1886 general election, and was re-elected unopposed in the next three elections, serving until his death.[4]

He died at Ballykilbeg on 17 July 1902.[4]


Johnston married firstly in 1853, Harriet Allen daughter of Robert Allen of Kilkenny. He married secondly in 1861 Arminella Frances Drew, daughter of the Rev. Thomas Drew, D.D. He married thirdly in 1863, Georgiana Barbara Hay, daughter of Sir John Hay, 5th baronet. She died in 1900.[1] He was the father of Charles Johnston (1867–1931).


  • Protestant Work to be Done (1853)
  • The Nunnery Question 1854
  • Narmo and Aimata, a tale of the Jesuits in Tahiti 1855
  • Nightshade 1857
  • The Boyne Book of Poetry and Song (editor) (1859
  • Popish Tyranny, and God-sent deliverance, or the days of William the Third, a lecture (1860)
  • Speeches (1869)
  • Under Which King? (originally serialised in Downshire Protestant) 1873


  1. ^ a b c d Debretts House of Commons and the Judicial Bench 1886
  2. ^ "Parades and Marches - Chronology 2: Historical Dates and Events". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  3. ^ Lucy, Gordon. "William Johnston, firebrand who rid Orangemen of hated Westminster legislation". News Letter. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Obituary - Mr William Johnston of Ballykilbeg". The Times (36823). London. 18 July 1902. p. 8.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Lanyon
and Samuel Gibson Getty
Member of Parliament for Belfast
1868 – 1878
With: Thomas McClure 1868–1874
James Porter Corry 1874–1878
Succeeded by
James Porter Corry
and Charles Lanyon
New constituency
from part of Belfast
Member of Parliament for Belfast South
1885 – 1902
Succeeded by
Thomas Henry Sloan
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Thomas Johnston
Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Preceptory
Succeeded by
Hunt Walsh Chambre