Titanic's unsung hero put daughter on lifeboat but gave his spot to another child

10th November 2021

Harper Photo
Unsung Hero John Harper

John Harper placed his daughter and niece into a lifeboat but gave up his seat for another woman or child knowing the decision would likely make his daughter an orphan

The final letter sent by an unsung hero of the Titanic disaster who sacrificed his own life for others has been unearthed almost 110 years later.

John Harper placed his six-year-old daughter Nina and niece into lifeboat 11 but gave up the chance to go with her so another woman or child could be saved.

He did so knowing the decision would likely make his daughter an orphan as her mother had previously died.

Harper Letter
The Remarkable Letter

As the liner began to sink Mr Harper, a Baptist minister, ran along the flooded decks, preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen.

He also gave away his own lifejacket to another men, telling him ‘you need this more than I do’, before going down with the ship.

He is also said to have preached to those in the freezing water after the liber sank, dying in it himself. He was 39. His niece Jessie went to be the longest-living Scottish Titanic survivor and died in 1986.

Three days before the 1912 disaster, the pastor , from Houston, Renfrewshire in Scotland, wrote a last letter home to his great-grandfather, Charles Livingstone, of 5 Porter Street, Glasgow.



In it he told him of the ‘glorious time’ he, his daughter and niece - who also survived - had been having on the Titanic. He wrote the note on White Star Line headed notepaper while the Titanic was en route from Cherbourg to Ireland. The never-before-seen letter was posted at Queenstown (Cork), which was the doomed liner’s last port of call. It remained in the family but has now been put up for sale for the first time.

It is being sold by Henry Aldridge and Son Auctioneers of Devizes, Wilts, and has a pre-sale estimate of £50,000.


Read the complete story in The Mirror 

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