Chorister at Holy Trinity, Elgin by Grenville Johnston

Grenville and his twin sister

Grenville with his twin sister

Grenville’s first job was as a chorister at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Elgin when he was around the 6-7 years old (1951). He was paid as a choir member for weddings, earning 2 /- per wedding. In those days the choir filled both sides of the pew. His father had been a founding member of Johnston and Carmichael Accountancy firm and the family lived in Nairn. They moved to Maine Road, Elgin when Greville was very small.. The location is important in the next part of his working life as it was close to Bilbohall farm where Greville was sent tattie picking each summer from the age of 9-10. Greville’s father believed that idle hands needed to be kept out of trouble especially those of young boys on holiday. Another summer job was working with his friend, Graeme Riddoch (a fellow chorister) on the Rothiemay Estate killing vermin (crows, rats, mice and foxes) using a .22 rifle. Graeme was related to the Riddochs of Rothiemay. During the Christmas holidays Greville was found another holiday job with Gordon and McPhail in their cellars. The Christmas Trading Period was extremely busy for the firm and they took on extra staff to help. It was all hands on deck. Greville and his friend, Ian Urquhart were sent to work in the cellars, which run under the shop. When an order came in e.g. Martell Brandy the boys would know where everything was so they found the appropriate bottles quickly taking them to a central place where a cardboard carton were kept to gather the total order. The order was taken up the steps by the men though Greville remembers he never dropped a bottle in all the time he worked for Gordon and McPhail. He can also clearly remember how to make up the cardboard cartons. Easter holidays involved exam revision and so it was that Greville and his friends were kept gainfully employed until they left school.

Grenville left at the age of 17 1/2 to commence training as a chartered accountant. This began in 1963 as an apprentice General Accountant (GA) at Scott Moncrieff Thompson and Sheilds. He stayed until 1968 when he qualified as a chartered accountant. During this period he lived in digs in Edinburgh. Initially he was in “ghastly digs” but he soon moved to stay with Miss Dolly Mulholland of 5 Coltbridge Avenue. The Terraced house was situated in a little cul-de-sac near the Football stadium and Edinburgh Zoo. Dolly was a very good landlady. Grenville was fed well and she knew that there were two concerned parents at home. Soon after he moved there his parents came down to see him. It was obvious to them and to Grenville that Dolly really cared. Though unmarried she described her time during the Second World War as having a sailor in every port. She owned the house of which she was the landlady.

Each night as he came home from the office he had supper and then went up to his room to work for a couple of hours returning downstairs for a cup of tea and a bun then bed. There was no curfew as each of the tenants had a key to the front door. Although Grenville committed himself to work hard and pass his exams he was able to find time to enjoy himself e.g.playing hockey.

Having qualified as a chartered accountant in 1968 his father expected him to return home to Elgin to join the family business of WD Johnston & Carmichael. This he did not do choosing instead to move to Glasgow and the firm of Thomson McKlintock & Co. He remained there for two years from 1968-1970.  He did eventually move north in 1970 when WD Johnston and Carmichael had several branches in Alford, Banff, Elgin, Nairn, Maud, Keith and Turiff. In the 1970s the firm moved from the Union Buildings at 81 High Street to new offices on the upper floor of 164 High Street, opposite the playhouse. He continued to work in the family business as a partner, senior partner and consultant until 2005. This was the same year he was appointed Lord Lieutenent of Moray.

Memory contributed by Grenville Johnston from Elgin

Additional Information

Brief background information about Greville’s military career in the Terrotorial army

Lord Lieutenant of Moray  – a role Greville has held since 2005. It is an honorary position representing the Queen at a variety of local events and attending her when she does visit the county as she did in 2012. Delivering whisky to the Queen in her Jubilee year.

Other posts include Chairman of Caledonian Marine Assets Ltd

Ian Urquhart– is part of the Urquhart family which has been involved with Gordon and MacPhail from its early days. He retired in 2007.

Urquhart Dance at the Assembly Rooms

Urquhart Dance at the Assembly Rooms reproduced with kind permission of Greville

© Greville Johnston

Memories of Elgin
Greville grew up in Elgin during the 1950s and 60s. He remembers many of the  businesses which were a feature of a busy High Street and South Street area.
-The Palace Garage on South Street with its Rolls Royces.
Austins Tearooms were opposite the Picture House Bingo, also on South Street. The distinctive stained glass windows can still be seen on the corner of the building. The building is still in use for the Elgin Bridge Club with interior shots of the building on their website. 
– The Creamery at the junction of Thunderton Place and South Street. It eventually became the Tesco site with the multi-storey car park next to it on South Street.
Assembly Room Dances. It had a wooden sprung floor and was purpose-built for dancing. The Assembly Rooms were unfortunately demolished in 1987.
Elgin Drill Hall  Greville remembers being taken to the top room at the age of 5 or 6. His father, William Dewar Johnston was in the Territorial Army as was Grenville later in life.
– Moray and Nairn Courant Newspaper was run from a printing press on South Street by the Grant Family.
– The tenements of Harrow Inn Close were very scruffy. They were renovated in the 1970s.
– Smiths warehouse was a fabulous toy shop. George Alexander Smith became the Provost of Elgin (1964-1970).


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