Cartoonist Tom Johnstone quits after nearly 50 years


A MUCH beloved local artist whose first cartoon Tele was drawn when Harold Wilson was in power, is finally stepping down after nearly 50 years.

Tom Johnstone drew his first drawing for the newspaper on March 14, 1974 and has since become a popular weekly article.

But now, at the age of 86, he feels it’s time to put down his sketchbook.

Tom, who lives on Shore Street in Gourock with his wife Marion, said: “Things are different now – there is PC culture in Britain and the lockdown has changed people’s lifestyles.

“It’s not the same – you’re afraid to play a joke in case people get offended.

“My first cartoon was about a craze for streaks – and in Greenock the streaker had to wear rubber boots and carry an umbrella – they all talked about silly things.”

He said he got his ideas from ordinary people chatting on buses and trains.

Tom said: “I used to go to night school at Reid Kerr College and listen to students and people in pubs and people come up with ideas for a cartoon.”

Tom is a born and raised Greenock boy and grew up on Ann Street, attending the old St Columba High School at Peat Road in Greenock.

He said: “St Columba was a good school and I met some good teachers.

“I was inspired by my art teacher Joe Kelly – he was a former east coast miner who lost his leg in a pit accident and he was sent to art school and became teacher.”

Tom had a varied and colorful career, training as a marine engineer with Rankin & Blackmore before joining the RAF where he was a driver and worked in the armory department.

He said: “I was in the Air Force for three and a half years and was stationed in East Africa, Libya and Aden in the Middle East.”

Tom returned to complete his apprenticeship and Lithgow then took over Rankin & Blackmore.

He started attending night school, graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and continued his love of painting, a passion he had since childhood and made a living as an artist.

He also joined the Greenock Art Club and became president and things developed from there.

Tom says his cartoons have been popular because people can relate to the characters or to well-made phrases.

He said: “People love the nostalgia and remembering old dance halls and cinemas, and Greenock was full of characters.”

His role as a cartoonist of Tele joins his other passion, doing demonstrations at local art clubs such as St Bart’s and presenting slideshows of Greenock in the past.

Tom says he likes to stay active and enjoys walking while listening to a jazz fan to relax.

He has been following the Capitol Big Band for many years.

Now that Tom has more free time, he can’t wait to spend it with his family, daughters Janice and Kay and three granddaughters Ellis, 30, Carly, 17 and Grace, 14.

Tom said: “I really enjoyed my career and met a lot of nice people because of it.”


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