We are one of the most powerful border reiver clans originating in Scotland. Border reivers were raiders along the Anglo-Scottish border from the late 13th century to the beginning of the 17th century. We originally settled in Annandale and for over six hundred years we held extensive possessions in the west of the Scottish Marches, from where we raided the Debatable Lands and England (sometimes as far south as Yorkshire).
The first of the our clan to be recorded was John Johnston, whose son, Gilbert, is found in records after 1194. Sir John Johnston was a knight of the county of Dumfries. He is found on the Ragman Rolls of 1296, swearing fealty to Edward I of England. In 1381 his great-grandson was appointed Warden of the Western Marches.
15th century and clan conflicts
Adam Johnston who was the first Laird of Johnston. Adam Johnston fought at the Battle of Sark in 1448. Adam's son fought for James II of Scotland in the desperate struggle against the Clan Douglas and was instrumental in suppressing that rebellion against the Crown. The king rewarded him with the lands of Buittle and Sannoch near Threave Castle that had previously belonged to the Douglases of Galloway.
16th century and clan conflicts
Clan Johnston had a long feud with the Clan Moffat who were another Scottish border clan. In 1557 the feud climaxed with the successful assassination of the Moffat chief, Robert Moffat. The Johnstons then went on to burn the local church with the most important members of the Moffat family inside, slaughtering anyone who tried to escape. The Clan Moffat was almost wiped out and seventy years later all of the Moffat's lands were passed to the Clan Johnston.
Unlike many of their neighbours who raided each other's lands, the Johnstons only raided England. However they did have a feud with the Clan Maxwell in 1593 when Lord Maxwell was killed along with many of his men at the Battle of Dryfe Sands. Later in 1608, in a meeting to reconcile their differences, Lord Maxwell treacherously killed Johnston. Maxwell was later captured and executed by hanging.
17th century and Civil War
In 1633, Charles I of England created James Johnston, chief of Clan Johnston as Lord Johnston of Lochwood. Ten years later he was created Earl of Hartfell. He joined James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose after the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645 but was captured at the Battle of Philiphaugh. His son, James, was imprisoned for some time in Dumbarton Castle, Glasgow Castle, St Andrews Castle and Edinburgh Castle.
However Charles II of England later created him Earl of Annandale and Hartfell.
Another branch of the Clan Johnston were the Johnstons of Caskieben. Sir George Johnston of Caskieben was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1626. The third baronet fought for William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
William Johnston, third Earl of Hartfell and second Earl of Annandale and Hartfell, was raised to the rank of Marquess of Annandale in 1701. William Johnston held many important state offices including President of the Privy Council and Secretary of State.
James Johnston, 2nd Marquess of Annandale, died in Naples in 1730. He had enjoyed the family estate and dignities for only nine years. He was succeeded by George, 3rd Marquess of Annandale, who was found in 1747 to be incapable of managing his affairs and a curator was appointed. Upon his death in 1792 the family titles became dormant.