Pollokshields Heritage History

Viscount Weir (1877-1959)

Lived at Douglas House, 68 Glencairn DriveJames Weir

William Douglas Weir was an industrialist and public servant born 12th May 1877 in Crosshill, Glasgow. His father was James Weir of the engineering firm G & J Weir Ltd, Cathcart, Glasgow. He was educated at Allan Glen’s School and the High School of Glasgow and at age sixteen became an apprentice in the family engineering company. He became a director in 1898 and subsequently managing director from 1902-05 and chairman from 1910-1952. By 1913 warships accounted for two thirds of the company’s output and when war finally broke out Prime Minister David Lloyd George (1863-1945) invited him to join his central advisory committee on munitions.

Weir was appointed unpaid director of Munitions in Scotland in July 1915. He was Knighted in February 1917 and appointed Controller of Aeronautical Supplies and a member of the Air Board. In 1918 he was appointed Director General of Aircraft Production at the Ministry of Munitions and from April to December of 1918 he was Secretary of State for the Royal Air Force and President of the Air Council. His services were rewarded with a peerage and he was sworn in by the Privy Council. Like his fellow Glaswegian Sir John Auld McTaggart he attempted to provide public housing with the aid of a Government subsidy, but his cheap experimental ‘steel houses’ were considered to have too many drawbacks.

His contention to use unemployed and poorly trained workers was met with opposition from trade unions and builders. In January 1928 he offered his Cardonald factory to Glasgow Corporation on the condition that the Corporation build 5000 Weir Houses. Glasgow Corporation refused and the factory closed.

In the 1920s he was chairman of a Government Committee whose recommendations were responsible for the setting up of the Central Electricity Board and between 1929-31 he was chairman of a committee that looked at the problems of main line railway electrification. He was created a G.C.B. in 1934.

In 1935 a joint request from Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947) and Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) resulted in him becoming an advisor on air rearmament and Imperial defence. He held this position until 1938 when he asked to be relieved of his duties after Neville Chamberlain dismissed Viscount Swinton. In June 1938 he was created Viscount Weir of Eastwood.

During the Second World War he served as Director General of Explosives at the Ministry of Supply from 1939-41 a position from which he also resigned after the appointment of Lord Beaverbrook as Minister. He was also chairman of the Tank Board in 1942.

He was also chairman of the Anglo-Scottish Sugar Beet Corporation in 1924 and a director of Lloyds Bank from 1928–38, Imperial Chemical Industries from 1928–53, International Nickel from 1928–59 and Shell Transport and Trading in 1939.

He was also a founder and later president of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club and in 1932 was elected to the Other Club – a political dining club founded in 1911 by Winston Churchill (1874-1965) and Frederick Edwin Smith, first Earl of Birkenhead (1872-1930).

In 1919 he received an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University and in 1957 was presented with the freedom of the City of London. He was also awarded many high ranking foreign decorations including the Grand Oflieer of the Italian Order of the Crown.

William Weir married Alice Blanche McConnachie (1882-1959) in 1904 and had 3 children.

He made many donations to organisations among them being £15,000 to the National Playing Fields Association in 1953. He died on 2nd July 1959 at Eastwood Park, Giffnock