Gladys Katie Johnston [née Head] (1891-1971)

Gladys Katie Head was born in London on 13 October 1891, the daughter of Frederick John Head and Kate Melville. She was the third of seven children. (Elizabeth, Mable, Gladys, Daisy, Peggy, Frederick and Raymond.) In the First World War she joined the Queen Alexandra Nursing Service, and was sent to Alexandria.

While working at the Ras-el-Tin Military Hospital in Alexandria, she met the Chaplain, the Rev. Francis Featherstonhaugh Johnston (Frank), and they were married in the Garrison Chapel at Moasca on 2 June 1919. They had two children, Marion Islay (1920) and Francis Noel (1921).

She spent most of the rest of her life in Egypt, first as the Chaplain’s wife at Port Said (1920 to 1933), then in Cairo where Frank became Archdeacon at the Pro Cathedral in Kasr-el-Dubarra. As the Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Llewellyn Gwynne was unmarried, Gladys acted as the perfect hostess to innumerable visitors, including Field Marshall Lord Montgomery, Archbishop Temple, the Chaplain General and a visitation of five Monks from St. Catherine’s Monastary, Sinai. During the second world war, Gladys was Mentioned in Dispatches for her caring work amongst the troops.

Gladys Johnston with General Montgomery

They were both deeply involved in the building of the new Cathedral which was consecrated in 1938. They moved to Alexandria, where Frank was Archdeacon and Chaplain at St. Marks and All Saints’. In 1952 they returned to Cairo and Frank was appointed Bishop in Egypt, where he served until 1956.

They had to leave Egypt during the Suez crisis in 1956, and were never allowed to return. After two years visiting British troops and Churches in Libya and other parts of his Diocese, Frank resigned as Bishop in Egypt, and was appointed Assistant Bishop of Guildford. In the late 1950s, some aspects of her life were described in a newspaper article.

Frank died very suddenly on 17 September 1963 from a heart attack while preaching at an open air Parade Service in Aldershot. After his death, Gladys lived a somewhat lonely life in Godalming. She died while visiting her daughter, Marion, in Leamington Spa on 23 March 1971, and is buried with Frank at St. Martha’s Churchyard on the Pilgrims’ Way.