A letter from Pastor John Harper, the father of Scotland’s longest living survivor from the Titanic, has just sold at auction for £42,000:
Annie Jessie Harper was born on 3rd January 1906, her mother died just 5 days later. Her father, a Baptist Preacher, decided in 1912 to travel to Chicago to preach at a Church there. He booked 3 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 14th April 1912 John Harper wakened his sister & 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. Nan was brought up by her father’s brother George Harper. It was when Nan was at Riglands Bible College that she met Philip Roy Pont who she married in London in 1934. Philip Roy Pont 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 the 10th April 1986; 74 years to the day after the Titanic set sail from Southampton. Jim Storrar (Moffat Miscellany Volume 2, pp145-146) 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 – please take a look as you pass by.
Many local residents will remember Nan Harper Pont and Reverend Pont. The Museum would be really interested in collating any memories & recollections for our Archive. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The old St. John’s Church and Vicarage can be seen in the bottom right of this photograph. Follow the link and you will be able to zoom right in!
You can read a bit more about The Scottish Episcopal Church of St John the Evangelist in Moffat here: http://stjohnsmoffat.org/history/
Nothing Can Separate Us
The Story of Nan Harper
by Tracy M. Leininger
Nan Harper was just a child when she travelled with her father, Pastor John Harper, on the maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic. This riveting story recounts the events of that fateful night, her father’s heroism, and Nan’s commitment to perpetuate the Gospel message for which her father so bravely died.
You can try and source a copy through Google Books. https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Nothing_Can_Separate_Us.html?id=SIbcAAAACAAJ&redir_esc=y