Obituary: Elliot Johnstone, 91

Elliot Johnstone, with wife Dinah. Picture: comp
Elliot Johnstone, with wife Dinah. Picture: comp
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Elliot Johnstone, international newsagent, has died, aged 91.

Born in Richmond Street, Newington, Mr Johnstone grew up in Easter Road and attended Norton Park School, leaving at the age of 14.

From there he went to do clerical work at the old Hagesan’s brewery until he joined the RAF Signals during the Second World War. During his time in the RAF he was based in a range of locations including Benbecula and Iceland as well as England.

After the war, Mr Johnstone returned to the brewery and then joined Leith Dock Commission (the forerunner of the Forth Port Authority) where he was an assistant personnel officer.

It wasn’t until 1965 that he invested in his first newsagent’s, in Trinity. The small shop was worked by his wife Dinah and daughter Diana while he remained working for the Leith Dock Commission.

By 1970 Mr Johnstone had moved his business to a different shop, in Duddingston, where he and Diana worked with his son-in-law, the husband of his other daughter Carole.

After he left the Duddingston shop in the 1970s, he bought a small property on the High Street, Charles Burns bookshop, and transformed it into a bustling newsagent’s. He became a well-known figure in the Capital. His daughter Diana said: ”It wasn’t a large shop but I loved it, it was so full of character.”

Mr Johnstone didn’t stock international newspapers straight away though. It was when he noticed the eclectic mix of residents around him in the city that he started to build up a collection of foreign newspapers and magazines from Germany, Hispanic countries, Arabic countries, Italy and France as well as countless others from all over the world.

He pioneered the introduction of international print in Edinburgh. Diana said: “He supplied all the foreign stuff you could get your hands on – he would have it sent up from a supplier in London on the train and collect it every morning.”

With the various offices around the store and the sheriff court nearby the demand for national and international newspapers never wavered. He also stocked the ubiquitous souvenir items and postcards as well as occasion cards. Speaking about her father, Diana said: “He was a hard working man, but also a quiet living man. He enjoyed serving customers and delivering a very personal service. For him the customer was the most important part of his business. He gave the kind of service you will struggle to find today, he was very welcoming and kind.”

In 1987 at the age of 65, Mr Johnstone eventually retired from the shop. He enjoyed a long retirement with his wife of 70 years and spent his time gardening, walking their dog, holidaying and doting on his three grandchildren and seven 
great-grandchildren.