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One final custard cream for Tillydrone granda Cliff Johnston, 82

For the funeral of the Granite City great-grandfather flowers were arranged to look like the biscuits he shared with his granddaughter.

Aberdeen grandfather Cliff Johnston who loved to share a custard cream with his granddaughter.
Aberdeen grandfather Cliff Johnston who loved to share a custard cream with his granddaughter.

There was nothing Granite City grandfather Cliff Johnston liked more than a custard cream. And so when the hard-working 82-year-old passed away his granddaughter set about paying him the perfect tribute.

Working with an Aberdeen florist, Rachel Johnston asked for a special floral arrangement to be commissioned in the shape and colour of her granda’s favourite nibble.

“It was always his biscuit of choice, even in latter days of his life when he wasn’t able to eat much else, he’d always ask for one. He just loved a custard cream, and we just loved him,” said Rachel.

Aberdeen born and bred

Clifford Johnston was born on Sunday, July 13, 1941 at home in Virginia Street,
Aberdeen. The fourth of seven children for general merchant David Johnston and his wife Jessie, nee Dyker, the family later relocated to Smithfield Drive.

Cliff attended nearby Smithfield School then went on to Hilton Academy. In his spare time he loved boxing with Tommy Begg’s club which met in Hanover Street School.

During school holidays Cliff kept himself busy. His father kept ponies and Cliff and his friend would be enlisted to help facilitate beach rides when they were off school.

Early days in Broadford Works

On leaving education Cliff initially worked with his dad before becoming a tuner at Broadford Works.

But in the hard graft of the mill Cliff got more than just a hard day’s work, and welcome custard cream breaks. It was there he met his first wife Doris Scott from Wingate prefabs in Tillydrone.

Much-loved family man Cliff Johnston

They tied the knot on February 23, 1962 in St George’s Church. Cliff’s brother-in-law Billy Scott was best man and his sister Moira was bridesmaid.

The couple’s first home was in Maberley Street, in a house “connected to Broadford’s”, before later moving to Gort Road in Tillydrone, where Cliff lived until 2017.

He and Doris had four children: Karen, David, Elaine and Lynn.

Always a grafter

When the kids were still young Cliff was made redundant from Broadford’s but he soon found work in Grandholme Mill.

He spent a decade there before jumping at the chance to get a job “in the fish” with his brother Eric.

It was a role that suited him. Three years later Cliff launched his own fishmonger’s business – Jemfish.

In 1986 Cliff’s career, and home life, changed direction. By then grandparents to Sonia and Jenni, Cliff and Doris divorced and a year later, while working as a labourer for Charles Gray Builders, Cliff suffered a heart attack and underwent a triple bypass operation.

The ordeal saw him pause manual work in favour of lighter duties, then for Muirfield Contracts.

In 1987 his third granddaughter Rachel was born, followed two years later by Holly.

Devoted granda and family man

Being granda to his girls was a role he relished. And as the years passed, he more than welcomed their partners into the fold too, as he had done with those of his children.

With an enviable ability to express love and warmth, when Karen met Colin, Cliff heartily embraced his children, Tony and Tara too.

Cliff Johnston and some of his great-grandchildren.

In the early 90s Cliff found love again and was married for a short time to Sylvia Grant.  Eventually retiring at the end of that same decade, he was single until 2004 when he met Moira Allan.

Partners in every sense, they spent the next two decades together, in Gort Road until moving to Aberdon Court in 2017 where his 14 great-grandchildren loved to visit.

A kind man, always

Reflecting on his life, Cliff fondly recalled many Christmases and Hogmanays surrounded by his wife, children, seven siblings and their families. He enjoyed summer holidays to Ballater and Perthshire and never lost his love of a good bargain hunt.

One of Cliff’s greatest joys was his family. Whether teaching them DIY or simply taking time to enjoy a wee biscuit together, “granda Cliff” adored them and was much-loved in return.

Known for being neighbourly, and an avid dog-lover, Cliff enjoyed a pint in the Tower’s Lounge or his favourite, The Scotia Bar.

In later years he returned to his love of Western movies, always while eating Liquorice Allsorts.

Granddaughters Rachel Johnston, granda Cliff, and Holly Johnston.

“My granda was always really kind, and always gave good advice,” said Rachel. “He always told us just to be ourselves.

“At his funeral they said ‘in essence, he was a grafter who was always there for his family.’

“He was certainly always there for me. I now treasure the memories of being able to sit down with him for a cup of coffee together.”

One final custard cream for granda

Cliff died peacefully at home, after a short illness, on May 14, aged 82.

A celebration of his life took place at Aberdeen Crematorium. Amongst the family flowers was a bright yellow arrangement in the shape of his favourite biscuit.

Made by Flower Fashions florist in Aberdeen, owner Elizabeth Stewart said she’d been really touched by how many people have commented on the custom arrangement.

A cup of coffee and a custard cream, in honour of Cliff Johnston.

Made with yellow chrysanthemums and sprayed rope it was “the perfect tribute” for Rachel’s granda Cliff.

“When everyone else was choosing something more traditional I had a different idea,” said Rachel.

“I’m so glad we did it. I think he would have loved it.”

The custard cream sat alongside white flowers in the shape of a cup of coffee from his great-grandchildren.