John Weir (1873-1957)

Our donor John Weir made a donation of a painting entitled Christ lamenting over Jerusalem by Sir Charles Eastlake P.R.A. to the Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum in February 1928 and a copy of it is shown below.

Eastlake, Charles Lock, 1793-1865; Christ Lamenting over Jerusalem

Christ Lamenting over Jerusalem by Charles Lock Eastlake; © CSG Glasgow Museums. (http://www.artuk.org)

John Weir was born in Rothesay on 23 July 1873. He was the eldest child of John and Mary Weir. His father was a boilermaker and plater. When John was still a young boy, his family moved to Govan, then, to Dumbarton and settled there. [1] He attended Rowallan Public School, between 1880 and1883. [2] He then attended College St. School in Dumbarton between 1883 and 1887. In his last year he became the Dux Gold Medallist. Between 1888 -1892 he attended Dumbarton School of Science and Art, where his technical education began. After graduating he attended the Glasgow Athenaeum Commercial College 1892-1897. In his last year, he was once again a Dux medallist. [3] The Glasgow Athenaeum Commercial College was then an important establishment in Glasgow. [4] having first started in 1847 in the Assembly Rooms, Ingram Street, and the inaugural address was  given by Charles Dickens. [5] It was originally built as a centre of adult education and recreation. Fundamentally, it was a go-between the Mechanic’s Institute and the University. However, in 1888 the commercial part of the Glasgow Athenaeum was separated from the Music, Drama and Art sections and became the Glasgow Athenaeum Commercial College. In 1915, it became the Glasgow and West of Scotland Commercial College and in 1955 the Scottish College of Commerce. Nine years later the Scottish College of Commerce combined with the Royal College of Science and Technology to form the University of Strathclyde. [6]

After completing his education, John Weir started work at William Denny and Brothers Limited in Dumbarton as an apprentice clerk between the years 1887 to 1892. It should be noted here that William Denny and Brothers Limited was often referred to simply as Denny or Denny’s which was a very important British shipbuilding company based in Dumbarton, Scotland, on the River Clyde. It built a total in excess of 22,000 vessels in its working life. Although the Denny’s Yard was situated near the junction of the River Clyde and the River Leven, the yard was on the Leven. Denny’s was always an innovator and was one of the first commercial shipyards in the world to have their own experimental testing tank. This is now open to the public as a museum in Dumbarton. [7] During the time he was working at Denny’s John Weir was a Private Secretary to James Denny, who was the son of William Denny, and also to the late Walter Brock, one of the directors.

Between 1897 and 1901, our donor had already left Scotland and gone to London. During this period, he served as Secretary and Estimates Clerk to the Superintendent Engineer of the New Zealand Shipping Co. Ltd., Royal Albert Dock, having been appointed by the Chairman of the Company, the late Sir Edwyn S. Dawes. [8] In 1901 John Weir married Mary Thomson. [9] Mr. and Mrs. Weir lived in West Ham in East London. However, before long, John Weir became a founder director of the shipping firm Silley Weir in London. [10]

In and around 1907 the Thames shipbuilding industry was in decline. One of the larger ship builders of the Blackwall Docks, R. & H. Green Ltd. continued to build ships until 1907. Then, in 1910 they amalgamated with Silley Weir & Company and became R. H. Green & Silley Weir Ltd. The new company grew rapidly until the outbreak of the First World War and then became one of the largest ship building companies in London. Throughout the war the firm constructed and repaired munitions ships, mine-sweepers, hospital-ships and destroyers. Their contribution to the war effort was acknowledged by a visit from King George V in November 1917. [11]

John Weir always considered himself to be a Dumbartonian. [12] He kept in touch with Dumbarton and in 1902, became a founder member of the London–Dunbartonshire Association. [13] He was the Association’s first secretary and for many years the chairman. It was largely due to his interest that the gift of amountain indicator’ was placed on Dumbarton Rock and also the memorial fountain, which was erected and dedicated at Dumbarton Cemetery shortly after the end of World War II. [14]

Our donor’s interests spread quite widely. Among them was geography, so much so that he applied for a fellowship to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) on 20 February 1913. [15] His address on his application form is given as: Dunbritton, Alderton Hill Loughton, Essex. He stayed at this address until his death. [16] Around this time there were some notable artistic and scientific communities as well as quite a collection of ship building magnates also living there. Among them were William Brown Macdougall (1868-1936), a Scottish artist, wood engraver, etcher and book illustrator and his wife Margaret Armour (1869-1943) the translator, poet and playwright, both of whom lived at Elm Cottage, Debden Road where a BLUE PLAQUE commemorating them was unveiled in 2012. They were both members of the New English Art Club. William died on the 20 April 1936 in Loughton and after his death Margaret returned to Edinburgh where she died in 1943. [17]

Our donor was also a friend of James Howden Hume [18] who was a keen collector of art and was President of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts between 1919 and 1924 and more information about Mr Hume may be found in a previous blog under his name at this website.

 He also devoted a great deal of time to social and welfare work in the East End of London. For many years he was the Chairman of the St. Mary’s Hospital for Women and Children Plaistow. [19] From 1915-32 he was a member and chairman of the London County Council’s School of Engineering and Navigation in Poplar, where a hall was named after him. [20] He was also a permanent magistrate at West Ham Court. He was considered ‘Father’ of the Court of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights, as he was then the oldest member of the Court. [21]

In The Scotsman of 26 September 1949 a news article appeared announcing under the title of GESTURE FROM “BLITZED” LONDON:

Memorial at Dumbarton

There was unveiled and dedicated in Dumbarton Cemetery yesterday a memorial fountain built to the design of Mr Hugh Lorimer, A.R.S.A., and erected by the London-Dunbartonshire Association to commemorate Servicemen belonging to Dunbartonshire who fell in the last war and those of the county who lost their lives by enemy action. The dedication was performed by the Rev. K. Goldie, clerk to Dumbarton Presbytery, and the memorial was unveiled by Major-General A. Telfer-Smollett, Lord-Lieutenant of the county, who formally handed it over to the Town Council for perpetual upkeep. Provost H. Brown accepted custody on behalf of the Town Council.

Mr John Weir, chairman of the London-Dunbartonshire Association, emphasised that the memorial was a county one and was a gesture from “blitzed” London to “blitzed” Dunbartonshire. After the ceremony Major-General Telfer-Smollett took the salute at a march past of detachments and units of His Majesty’s Forces.

It might be of some interest here to mention that a letter written by John Weir on headed notepaper of “R & H. Green and Silley Weir”, the “Ship and Engine repairers” of the Royal Albert Dock in the East End of London in 1926 to the Royal Society of Arts was on sale on e-bay recently (in 2006). [22]. The letter [23] was a request by John Weir for application forms for the competitions for the Fothergill Prize (for the studies in history and philosophy of sciences) and the Thomas Gray Memorial Trust Prize (for the advancement of the Science of Navigation and the Scientific and Educational interests of the British Mercantile Marine). It is signed, in ink by John Weir, and relates to his position of ‘Vice Chairman of the advisory committee of the LCC School of Engineering and Navigation’. It has been stamped with the Royal Society of Arts receiving mark. It is not known if the letter was sold on e-bay.

John Weir’s wife Mary Thomson, who both together were a Freeman of the city of London. [24] Mrs Mary Thomson died aged 71 years old in October 1944. [25] There were no children. John Weir died on 16 November 1957, at the age of 85. There was a funeral service held for him at The Crown Church Covent Garden, London. His family and friends and all the local dignitaries attended. [26]

The remains of John Weir were brought to Dumbarton for interment in the cemetery on Friday, 22 November 1957 according to his wishes. A large gathering was present at the ceremony. [27]

Acknowledgements

The author would like to express her thanks to Sarah Strong, Archives Officer, Foyle Reading Room, Royal Geographical Society, Mr Graham Hopner, Dumbarton Library Study Centre, Cllr C Pond, the local historian of Loughton, Essex for their generous help.

References:

[1] 1891 Census Book-9, Dumbarton Library Archives.

[2] UK Mechanical Engineer Records 1847-1838 for John Weir; Sequence No 20,875.

[3] ibid.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Conservatoire_of_Scotland

[5] http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Glasgow/AthenaeumGlasgow.htm

[6] https://www.theglasgowstory.com/image/?inum=TGSS00017&t=2

[7 https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/William_Denny_and_Brothers

[8] op. cit. UK Mechanical Engineer Records 1847-1838 art. 15

[9] 1901 England Census

[10] The Lennox Herald, Saturday, 23rd Nov. 1957, Dumbarton Library Archives.

[11] British History online:
https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols43-4/pp565-574

[12] op. cit. [10]

[13] ibid.

[14] ibid.

[15] Communication with Sarah Strong, Archives Officer, RGS, London.

[16] ibid. and op.cit. [10]

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Brown_Macdougall

[18] Glasgow Council Minutes, February 1928, Mitchell Library Archives.

[19] op. cit. [10].

[20] ibid.

[21] ibid.

[22] Correspondence with Cllr C. Pond.

[23] e-mail by Cll. C Ponds informing a letter written by J. Weir sold on e-bay.

[24] op. cit.[10].

[25] England and Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 for Mary T. Weir.

[26] The Times,18 November 1957, p.12.

http://archive.timesonline.co.uk/tol/ archive/

[27] op. cit. [10].

 

One thought on “ John Weir (1873-1957)

  1. Another great read from the Glasgow Museums Art Donors Group! It’s great to read about people who contributed to Dumbarton and then beyond. How many people know that Denny’s was responsible for manufacturing 22,000 vessels or so over its lifetime? Dumbarton is a relatively quiet place in the 21st century but let’s not forget the industrial engine that it was for over two centuries!

    The piece is also another reminder of the how many people from Scotland and elsewhere who have contributed (and continue to do so) to the fabric and econony of London – something that should be acknowledged more by today’s politicians.

    Like

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