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Feature: The Makers of the Villa - No.6 Charles. S. Johnstone

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Feature: The Makers of the Villa - No.6 Charles. S. Johnstone

Republished Villa News & Record profiles from the early 1900s about the great men who shaped our club. Written by pioneering programme editor Jack Urry, Charles. S. Johnstone is the fifth in focus.

If I were still a schoolboy I think I should approach this subject with fear and trembling, because I understand that Charles. S. Johnstone is a martinet of a pretty despotic kind to those who are sinful among his pupils; though I hasten to add that his reputation for kindness and helpfulness is rather higher than the other side of his character.

As I have been a sinner for even a longer time that he has, suppose we agree to start fair, so to say: for Charles besides being a talker of great industry, can express himself very lucidly and ably in type.

You all know he is a pedagogue - one of the best, I am told; and I have certainly heard some of his old boys speak exceedingly well of him, and that is a feather of the perkiest kind in any schoolmaster's cap.

What sort of a pupil he made I have never heard; but I'll bet he was pretty "hot stuff", judging by his cool audacity in the particular walks of life in which I knew him, and I should say that for a courageous kind of "nerve" he could equal any Scot who ever came south, even in the days when cattle returned with them.

"Charlie" Johnstone [for that is the name he has been known to us all for more than 40 years - fancy that, to look at him!] was a Villan from the very beginning, and he was mainly responsible for making Archie Hunter the same, and a lot more of the same brand, for the champion sprinter of the Midlands was a proselytiser of the first water, and one of the loyalest members who ever fought and scribed under the Rampant Lion's banner.

I think I could give his exact age, but he may be susceptible, so I'll just mention that he was a full-fledged member of the first-team 41 years ago.

He was a first-rate half-back - not quite a James Cowan or a Peter Dowds - and his fine speed gave him a great advantage, as there was no forward living in his day that he could not "fetch back" as they used to say in the vernacular.

He has been intimately and very interestedly connected with Aston Villa for all those years, and in his way has done the club no end of good - there is no doubt about that, even if his advice has sometimes been of the voluminous kind and his opinions aired in a manner that savoured of hardiness - a proof of the words at the commencement of this article.


With the exception of George Ramsay and J.E Margoschis I do not think there is a man who has done more for the club whose romance he grew up with and helped to form than Charles. S. Johnstone who carries his age so well, and who really does know the game from A to Z.

He has made mistakes; no man ever made anything who hasn't, not even a reputation; and there are plenty of modern specimens about to prove it.

Charlie Johnstone comes across from a fine old Scottish stock, and looks it. I have never seen him in kilts, but I'd like to, for I'm sure he'd look like a noble chieftain; and knowing his dear old father as well as I did, I am not surprised that he bred so fine a son.

You should have heard the old gentleman talk Gaelic when an opponent started knocking a Villa man about - his very eyebrows used to talk; and Charles can, or could, lilt pure Saxon with just the same verve and abandon.

We all like to hear him "lay down the law" on occasion, and we assimilate a good deal of it, but sometimes there are bits of it difficult to swallow; you are inclined to have recourse to the salt-cellar.

Still, he's pretty safe to follow and because he is such a thorough-paced Villan, we have a strong admiration and regard for the stalwart pedagogue who - both by example and precept - especially by precept - has told us so many tales of sport both by voice and pen; but, as Goldsmith said, he is "too fond of the right to pursue the expedient."

Above I have mentioned his running abilities. Up to a quarter of a mile, Charlie Johnstone was one of the best sprinters in the land, and he leads the class in the Midlands, though Tom Pank - a contemporary of his and a jolly good one - used to make him gallop in the shorter distances.

He used to write the football notes for the Birmingham Daily Mail, and they were among the very best leathercasing literature in the press, for Charles. S. Johnstone had ideas of his own, and wasn't afraid of expressing them.

Also, he had a happy knack of hitting the right nail on the head, with an epigrammatic way of expressing himself that was very good to read. He could get a tremendous lot of the best kind of stuff into a column, and there was always "meat" in it.

He has been a sportsman of the first grade for 40 years and is still a popular figure in the sporting world.

Aston Villa followers may sometimes look upon him as a candid friend - very candid, when he thinks the occasion calls for it; but he has done them yeoman service in all sorts of ways for more than 40 years, and may he go on doing it for many a merry season.

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AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 22nd October 2013
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