Tom Johnston

Biography of Tom Johnston

Tom Johnston
Tom Johnston

Tom Johnston (1881-1965) was a student at the University who became a socialist politician, a Red Clydesider, and a campaigning journalist. He became a very successful Secretary of State for Scotland during the Second World War and was the creator of the North of Scotland Hyro-Electric Board.

He was born in 1881 in Kirkintilloch and educated at Lairdsland Public School and Lenzie Academy. After he left school he became interested in politics and stood successfully for a local election in 1903 representing the Independent Labour Party. In 1906, thanks to inheriting a printing press from a relative, he was able to set up The Forward, a radical weekly paper that reflected his Fabianism and teetotalism. He remained editor until 1933. It was in the early days of running the paper that he matriculated at the University of Glasgow as a mature student of twenty-three. In 1907 he took a class in Moral Philosophy and gave his address as the Student Settlement, a pioneering student association interested in social improvement. The following year he enrolled for Economics, but he left without graduating.

During the Great War he advocated peace and attacked war profiteers. After the war he stood for parliament, and in 1922 won West Stirlingshire for Labour. The period of his greatest achievement was during the Second World War. Churchill appointed him as secretary of state for Scotland in 1941. He worked with colleagues of all parties to galvanise the Scottish economy on a war footing and created the North of Scotland Hydro- Electric Board. The University of Glasgow conferred the degree of Honorary LLD in 1945. He died on 5 September 1965.


Tom Johnston
Secretary of State for Scotland

Born 2 November 1881, Kirkintilloch, Scotland.
Died 5 September 1965.
University Link: Alumnus, Honorary Graduate
GU Degree: LLD, 1945;
Occupation categories: Politician
NNAF Reference: GB/NNAF/P15662
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Record last updated: 12th Mar 2014

University Connections

University Roles

  • Alumnus
  • Honorary Graduate

World Changing Achievements

Tom Johnston is listed on the University of Glasgow World Changing website.

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