Tuesday 7 February 2012

Try and try again

L8804/4 - Colonel Henry Halcro Johnston

Now that the Rugby Union Six Nations Tournament is underway, we're remembering that Orkney had its own Rugby international. Colonel Henry Halcro Johnston played full back for Scotland against England and Ireland in 1877. On those occasions Scotland thrashed England 3-0 and annihilated Ireland 20-0 with a magnificent six tries and four conversions. Those were the days!

This is not Henry's only claim to fame. He was born at Orphir House in the parish of Orphir in 1856, the fifth son of James Johnston, 11th Laird of the Coubister Estate. He later qualified as a doctor in 1880 from Edinburgh University and entered the army as a surgeon. There followed a distinguished army career which resulted in a number of decorations before his retirement in 1913.

As if his life was not full enough Colonel Johnston was also an enthusiastic botanist, writing in numerous publications about the plants that he had collected in Afghanistan, Mauritius, the Canary Islands, Madeira, Egypt, Gambia, Natal, India and Sierra Leone. He also put together a collection of around 4,000 botanical specimens to be found in Orkney and Shetland, which became the property of Stromness Museum. After his death this herbarium was transferred to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. His notes and observations have remained in Orkney and are in the Archive awaiting cataloguing.

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