Willie Johnston - Mr Montrose
Willie Johnston - Mr Montrose
An enthusiastic young Montrose supporter missed the Gable Endies fine win over cup holders East Fife in 1939 because he was at a wedding. That supporter hasn't missed too many Montrose games over the last 60 years or so. He is, of course, the man who has become known to generations of players, supporters and officials, and not just those connected with Montrose FC, as Mr Montrose, otherwise former Chairman and now Club President, Willie Johnston.
Willie certainly didn't miss out when the team triumphed over Queen of the South in 1948. Following that momentous game, the Review quoted Hospitalmaster W Johnston, chairman of the Supporters Club as saying 'We are jubilant.' He has witnessed most of Montrose's triumphs and setbacks since.
But our tale starts long before that in Orange Lane where Willie was born in 1912. He first worked as a message boy and then as a van man with McFarlane the Grocers. Later in life, he and his wife Jean, ran the newsagents shop in Murray Street, before retiring in1968.
He has always had a tremendous interest in local football and was one of the leading members of the Supporters Club before the War. When the Supporters Club was reformed after that conflict he was appointed Chairman.
That role eventually led him to be appointed to the Board of the Football Club as the Supporters Club representative in 1949, before being elected Chairman in 1955.
In 1945 he had stood for the Montrose Town Council and topped the poll. He held various council offices and was elected as Provost, a position he would hold for four three-year terms, a council record.
Willie tells of how, when he was elected Provost, he was told by a Council Official that he would have to resign from his Football Club duties, as he wouldn't be able to combine the duties of Club Chairman and Provost. Such was Willie's love of football that he offered to return the Provost's chain. Needless to say Willie managed to carry out both jobs.
As well as being Montrose's longest serving provost, a record that, short of yet more re-organisation of local government, will be his forever, he served Montrose FC as chairman for thirty years, before taking on the less onerous role of Club President.
When he served on the Board of Montrose FC he always had the team's best interests at heart and he was responsible for bringing many of the managers and players to the Club.
It was Willie who was instrumental in bringing Alec Stuart to Links Park. Willie had approached the then Dundee United manager, Jerry Kerr, and asked him if he could recommend a player/manger. Jerry recommended Alec who was far from enthusiastic about signing for Montrose.
Willie persevered and, at the third attempt, convinced him that Links Park was the place to be. The rest is indeed MFC history.
Willie is also rightly proud of his connections with the junior game. At one stage Montrose had a policy that when a player that they had signed from the junior ranks moved on, a percentage of any fee received was paid over immediately to his junior club. This arrangement led to many good players being recommended to the Club and agreeing to join Montrose.
During his time in the game he has also been Chairman of the Forfarshire Football Association and a member of the Scottish Football Association.
His reputation in the game is legendary, and he is known throughout Scottish football, not just for his love of football, but also for his fund of funny stories and, of course, playing the moothie. When visiting any boardroom there is always a group, gathered around Willie, listening to his latest story.
Willie might have been a professional entertainer. The outbreak of the War meant the cancellation of an audition to appear on a Radio Aberdeen programme but he did audition again in 1945, following which he took part in the Scottish Half Hour from Aberdeen studios. Later he was part of the Kittlenaket Cornkisters, group of entertainers who appeared several times on Grampian TV's 'Bothy Nichts.'
Willie's spare time has been taken up with a number of activities over the years and his love of sport in general has seen him become involved in many organisations. He is, I understand, a life member of every golf club in the town and he used to act as MC when boxing contests were held locally.
Willie has also served as Chairman of the Legion, President of the local Rotary club and held office in many, many more organisations.
In 1969 his services to local government were recognised when he was made a freeman of the Burgh and awarded with an MBE.
Tonight's game celebrates 125 years of Montrose FC's history. We also recognise Willie's not inconsiderable part in that history.
© Forbes Inglis 2004