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Saturday 22 September 2018

Book recalls life of Ravensdale linen merchant and nationalist

Anyone with an interest in local life in north Louth/south Armagh will find plenty to read in this book
Anyone with an interest in local life in north Louth/south Armagh will find plenty to read in this book

Local historian Don Johnston has published a new book which traces the life of Ravensdale linen merchant John Johnston. John Johnston was elected in 1877 as the first Roman Catholic to hold the position of Poor Law Guardian for the Ravensdale District.

 As a democrat he campaigned successfully against all the odds for the appointment of the first Catholic medical officer for the overwhelmingly Catholic population in the Ravensdale Dispensary District. He also found time during this period to run a very successful business in the Bleach Factory in Ravensdale where the tradition of linen manufacture lasted for more than 200 years.

He established the first branch of the Land League in his local parish of Lordship and Ballymascanlan in 1880. Johnston's abiding interest in education bore fruit in the establishment in 1889 of Dulargy National School, where as a trustee he could appoint the local parish priest as manager of the school.

In the ground-breaking local elections of 1899, Johnston achieved the highest proportion of votes cast for any candidate in Louth. He was re-elected unopposed at every subsequent election. His crowning political achievement was to co-ordinate the purchase of the tenants' interest in the former Fortescue estates in north Louth in 1903, thus ending centuries of landlord domination in that district.

A fervent nationalist, Johnston held strong views that only Irishmen were capable of legislating for Irishmen. John Redmond had urged Irishmen in 1914 to join the British Army as Home Rule was on the statute books. Johnston's son Tim joined the war effort and was killed on Flanders Fields one April evening a fortnight before the 1916 Rising in Dublin.

Anyone with an interest in local life in north Louth/south Armagh will find plenty to read in this book which, full of pictures and illustrations, would make a lovely Christmas present. (Price: €18)

The Argus

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