On 14th April 1912 the jewel of the White Star Line, the ‘unsinkable Titanic, hit an iceberg. The massive hulk scraped the starboard side of the ship leaving a large gash. Water began to flood in, pouring over the bulkheads. It was soon clear that the ship could not be saved and the lifeboats were brought into action. But there were not enough spaces on the lifeboats, and some were even put to sea half empty. The Titanic sunk at 2.20am on 15th April. Repeated attempts to signal nearby ships were in vain, and those that did respond were too far away. And so 1,517 people died in the icy-cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Colonel John Weir
John Weir was born in 1852 in Scotland. Married, divorced and re-married, he became a soldier and rose to the rank of Colonel. During the Spanish-American War he was appointed Quartermaster-General by no less a man than President McKinley. He later became president of Nevada-Utah Mines & Smelters Corporation and was highly regarded in Nevada. One newspaper would write of him:
His heart was young, and his strong body … bore the straight lines of the typical soldier.
Although he worked internationally he always retained his link with Scotland and lived at a house called Ingleholm in North Berwick.
In April 1912 Weir had to suddenly return to America on business. He was originally booked on a ship called Philadelphia, but the sailing was postponed due to a coal strike. Unfortunately for Weir he was transferred to the Titanic. On 10th April he boarded at Southampton on a £26 11s first class ticket. Four days later he went down with the ship.
East Lothian reacts
When news of the disaster reached East Lothian the reaction was one of shock. Condolences were quick in coming; many church sermons mentioned the event and closed their services with ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’. A performance of The Mikado at North Berwick Foresters’ Hall raised £19 10s, whilst a benefit concert was held by the Haddington Amateur Dramatic Society.
Colonel Weir’s dispute
Unfortunately for Colonel Weir’s family, he had not made a will. Before the estate could be divided a man came forward claiming to be Weir’s son. It was proven that he was indeed a relative and entitled to part of the estate. His intervention meant that the case was not settled until 1914.