St Johnston is Baile Suingean in Gaelic. Baile is town and Suingean
refers to St John. St John is the nickname of the saint of the area,
Baithin, who was renowned for being a good preacher. So St Johnston
denotes St John’s Town.
At the time of the Siege of Derry, Reverend John Mackenzie of
Cookstown mentioned, " Mr John Cowan of St John's Town”.
The Parliamentary Gazetteer in 1846 spelled it as St Johnstown as
did the Dublin Penny Journal Volume 4 in 1835.
It is reasonable to assume that as nearby Taughboyne meant House of
Baithin that it was the prompt to call the town after him as well.
The town was created at the time of the Ulster Plantation. St
Johnston became a borough town under King James I in 1619 until the
Act of Union in 1800. The town was built along the River Foyle which
aided transport and the fishing industry.
The towns most famous “guest” was King James II who stopped in it in
1690 and sent a letter urging Derry to surrender during the Siege of
The town enjoyed great economic success with its fairs and small
businesses. The railway which closed in 1965 had been a further
boost to the town. It had opened in 1847.
Its Presbyterian Church was established around 1724. The Roman
Catholic chapel was built in the late 1850’s. A church building for
the use of the Church of Ireland was started and abandoned. The
ruins can be seen in the old graveyard in the town.
The Cricket Club was founded in 1898. The revolutionary of 1798,
Oliver Bond, was most likely born in St Johnston.