Fitting tribute to BBC journalist ‘farmers respected’

The former head of agriculture at BBC NI, Robert John (John) Johnston MBE, has passed away.

Mr Johnston died peacefully at the Causeway Hospital on 13 November.

He resided at Magherabuoy Hollow, Portrush, and formerly in Novara Park, Antrim.

Mr Johnston was the devoted husband of the late Norah, loving father of Liz, Sandra, Laura and Robert, father-in-law of Bill, David, Alan and Evelyn, proud pappy of Colin, Andrew, Laura, Richard, Isaac, Gideon and Shauna, great-grand pappy of Tullia, Viola, Eliza, Hector, Sophia and Reece and much-loved brother of Martie.

John Johnston. Image: Hugh Wade and Son.

Rodney Magowan was saddened to learn of Mr Johnston’s death who he credits for his entry into agricultural journalism in 1979.

At that time, BBC Radio Ulster launched ‘Farmgate’, a 15-minute daily rural bulletin that aired twice daily, five days a week, with a magazine edition broadcast on Saturday mornings.

“John played a key role in founding the Guild of Agricultural Journalists and in trying to build relationships with the branch in the Republic of Ireland 60 years ago,” Rodney explained.

“John ran the best agricultural unit in the BBC when they had a farming team in every region.

“Land ‘n’ Larder on TV, Ulster Farm, Farmgate and Ulster Garden (now Gardeners’ Corner) on radio were all produced and presented by a small team led from the front by John Johnston.

“A man farmers respected, he knew his subject and his audience.”

A service of thanksgiving will be held in Ballywillan Presbyterian Church, Portrush, (restricted numbers) tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2pm.

If you wish to make a donation, cheques can be made payable to Marie Curie Cancer Care, c/o Ms Charlene Wade, 3 Upper Abbey Street, Coleraine, BT52 2BF.

Family and friends are welcome to his daughter’s home in Portrush, in line with Covid regulations.