Another milestone in Herald’s history

The Falkirk Herald Press 1953.
The Falkirk Herald Press 1953.

From a monthly with modest sales to becoming the biggest selling weekly in Scotland.

From finally taking advertisements off the front page and filling it with news, to colour pictures and industry awards, The Falkirk Herald reaches another major milestone today (Thursday) with the publication of the last edition in its traditional format.

From next week your number one weekly, which has informed, campaigned, entertained and encouraged readers to have their say for 166 years, makes the switch from broadsheet to the more modern tabloid look.

The first Falkirk Herald and Stirlingshire Monthly Advertiser was printed in Glasgow by lawyer Alexander Hedderwick on Saturday, August 14, 1845.

A year later it was bought by Archibald Johnston whose family had been involved in the printing business since 1763.

He moved the newspaper to Falkirk High Street and, on August 13, 1846, the first ‘made in Falkirk’ Herald was published. In 1851 it switched to weekly production and in 1857 even became a bi-weekly for a time.

After Archibald’s death in 1877, control passed to his fourth son James and in 1882 to Archibald’s youngest son Frederick, who was in charge for 54 years. Under his leadership circulation more than doubled to 15,000 copies. In 1891 he established the Herald’s first sister paper, the Linlithgow Gazette, with The Grangemouth Advertiser, Cumbernauld News, Carluke and Lanark Gazette, Strathaven News and Kirkintilloch Herald just a few of the titles to follow.

Frederick used The Falkirk Herald to launch several worthy appeals which readers enthusiastically supported. They included a fundraising drive on behalf of Belgian refugees from the First World War which earned a formal thank you from the King of Belgium and a collection to support the victims and familes of the Redding pit disaster in 1923 which raised a staggering £63,000 - the equivalent of over several million pounds today.

His nephew Frederick Mair Johnston, a former editor of the Evesham Journal, took charge of F. Johnston & Co. as managing director in 1936 as the family firm grew from publishing two newspapers to 24.

In 1940, he turned to the Herald’s readership again, this time to buy a Spitfire for the RAF, and in 1941 thanks to the £5000 provided ‘The Falkirk Bairn’ took to the skies and served with distinction with three squadrons before being written off in combat in September 1942. The Falkirk Herald War Relief fund was also launched to help injured soldiers, their families and prisoners of war and raised £8100.

Frederick’s son, Frederick Patrick Mair Johnston, ‘Young Mr Freddie’, took over the chairman’s role in 1973 and continued the expansion. By the time he retired in 2001 it had moved south of the border with the purchase of the Derbyshire Times, the second largest-selling weekly newspaper in England, and other leading groups in Yorkshire, Sussex and the Midlands.

To avoid confusion stemming from its dual function as a newspaper owning and publishing company, Mr Johnston authorised the re-naming of the Falkirk operation to Johnston (Falkirk) Ltd in 1983. In 1988 the parent firm F. Johnston & Co. was floated on the Stock Exchange to become Johnston Press plc, the third largest publisher of regional newspapers in the UK.

Today The Falkirk Herald is published by Johnston Newspapers Scotland and is part of an organisation which controls well over 100 titles, including The Scotsman.

On August 14, 1995, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth sent Mr Johnston and his employees her best wishes on the occasion of The Falkirk Herald celebrating its 150th year. Congratulations were also received from Prime Minister John Major, MPs Tony Blair, Dennis Canavan, Martin O’Neil, Michael Connarty and Alex Salmond, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, MEP Alex Falconer, Provost John Constable, the Convener of Central Region Council Anne Wallace, Chief Constable William Wilson, Firemaster Ian Adam, ‘Bond actress’ and chairman of the MacRobert Arts Centre Dame Diana Rigg and national newspaper editors James Seaton of The Scotsman, George McKechnie of The Glasgow Herald and Terry Quinn of the Daily Record.

The Falkirk Herald left the High Street in 1982 and moved to offices above the Royal Bank of Scotland at Newmarket Street, printing from premises in Middlefield, before moving ‘lock, stock and barrel’ to Camelon in 1991.

Today the main editorial and advertising base of Scotland’s top local newspaper can be found at Unit 4A, Gateway Business Park, Grangemouth, but a Falkirk Herald office still remains at 10 Manor Street in Falkirk.