He died on the boat but his daughter Annie survived and ended up living in Moffat.
Annie Jessie Harper was born on January 3 1906, her mother died just five days later. Her father, a Baptist preacher, made arrangements in 1912 to travel to Chicago to preach at a church there. He booked three second class berths on RMS Titanic for himself, his sister Jessie Wills Leitch and his daughter Annie Jessie Harper, known as Nan.
When the ship struck the infamous iceberg on the night of April 14 1912 John Harper wakened his sister and grabbed a sleeping Nan from her berth, wrapping her in a blanket before taking them up on deck. There he kissed Nan goodbye, handed her to a crewman and watched as she and her aunt were safely stowed in a lifeboat, John remained on board to give support to the distressed passengers – he went down with the ship.
Many years later Nan recalled that she was sitting on her aunt’s lap when she saw the Titanic sink and she remembered watching the lights go out and hearing the screams of the drowning.
Rescued by the Carpathia and taken to New York, Nan and her aunt returned to England later that same month and Nan was brought up by her father’s brother, George.
It was when Nan was at Riglands Bible College that she met Philip Roy Pont who she married in London in 1934. Philip was ordained and in 1964 the couple moved to Moffat when Reverend Pont took charge at St John’s Episcopal Church where he preached for the next 20 years. They lived in St John’s Vicarage at 3 Mansfield Place in Moffat.
Nan died on April 10 1986; 74 years, to the day, after the Titanic set sail from Southampton.
In Moffat Miscellany Volume 2, Jim Storrar describes her: “Nan was a wonderfully gentle and kind person and her voice was a soft Glasgow brogue. When she was 72 she was asked if she would like to see the Titanic raised “I don’t see much point in it after all this time,” she replied.”
Both Nan and her husband are buried in Moffat New Cemetery. Moffat Museum’s “Window on the World” display has more information about her story, which is also online at www.moffatmuseum.co.uk.
And the museum team believe many local residents will remember Nan and her husband and are keen to collate any memories and recollections for their archive. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to take part.
- Photo courtesy of Henry Aldridge and Sons Auctioneers