Tributes to Sunderland solicitor with ‘desire to help the underdog’

Solictitor Willie Johnstone being sponsored to wear his kilt and wig at Sunderland Magistrates' Court in aid of Comic Relief.
Solictitor Willie Johnstone being sponsored to wear his kilt and wig at Sunderland Magistrates' Court in aid of Comic Relief.
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A city solicitor who survived the Boxing Day tsunami has lost his battle with cancer.

A funeral service for Willie Johnstone will be held at Sunderland Crematorium at 2.30pm tomorrow.

Notwithstanding his illness, Willie was dedicated to his work and clients and always endeavoured to get himself to court in a morning. Willie was very much a people’s man and will be sadly missed by us all.

Heather Bolton

Willie, who grew up in Dumfriesshire, was a keen sportsman all his life and worked as a PE teacher in Sunderland.

It was volunteering with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau that convinced him to become a solicitor.

He moved to Thailand and married wife Meme after the tsunami and spent several years in the country before returning to Sunderland, because he missed his work as a lawyer. Willie was passionate about his work as a solicitor, but also had a wicked sense of humour, even about his illness, and earlier this year turned up to court in full kilt and sporting an Afro wig, to raise money for charity.

Hendon ward councillor Barbara McClennan said: “I first met Willie when he started off as a Citizen’s Rights activist in the East End of Sunderland more than 30 years ago.

“I was always impressed with his desire to help the underdog – sometimes neglecting himself in the process. He always was full of energy and vitality and his personality stood out in any room he was in.

“The city has lost one of its great characters.”

Heather Bolton, of Scanlan’s Solicitors, added: “Notwithstanding his illness, Willie was dedicated to his work and clients and always endeavoured to get himself to court in a morning.

“Willie was very much a people’s man and will be sadly missed by us all.”

Willie is survived by Meme and grown-up children Jacqueline, Jamie and Becky.