Death of former owner of The Argyllshire Advertiser

Freddy Johnston passed away aged 86. Photograph: Bill Henry

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Freddy Johnston a previous owner of The Oban Times and Argyllshire Advertiser has died aged 86.

He has been described by his peers as a ‘leading light in the newspaper industry and a much -loved character’.

Through his leadership of the firm, F. Johnston & Co. grew from a handful of Scottish titles to one which commanded 200 daily and weekly newspapers the length and breadth of the country.

Born in Edinburgh in 1935, Freddy attended Morrisons Academy in Crieff and Lancing College. He later went to New College, Oxford, where he read History.

Freddy was required to do National Service and loved his time in the army. It was during regimental reunions that he met Alan Cameron, the owner of The Oban Times.

When Alan Cameron decided to retire  in 1976, he offered the newspapers to Freddy. Thus Johnston expanded away from the Central Belt and Falkirk to Argyll and the Highlands and Islands. There were always fond memories of the holidays the family had in the flat in the old Oban Times building.

Still on the acquisition trail, later in 1976 Freddy added The Campbeltown Courier to the sister papers of The Oban Times and the Argyllshire Advertiser.

Expansion into England became Freddy Johnston’s aim. In 1983, whilst in New York, Freddy met up with Howard Bennett and it was there that negotiations took place for Freddy to be introduced by Howard to the owners of a large weekly newspaper in Lancashire.

Freddy bought this paper and sold The Oban Times portfolio to Howard and Joan Bennett later in 1983.

Five years later Johnston Press Ltd was floated on the London Stock Exchange. It continued to make multiple acquisitions and in 2006 bought The Scotsman daily newspaper, albeit Freddy had by this time retired in 2001 but remaining on the board of directors.

In 1961 he married Ann Jones originally from mid-Wales. They had two sons, Michael and Robert, both of whom worked in newspapers and publishing. He is survived by Ann, Michael and Robert and partners, Claire and Nick, and four grandchildren.

The death of Freddy brings to a conclusion an era in newspaper publishing. Freddy was no hard nosed media hack or mogul. He was a gentle, humorous and dignified man.