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Letter written by 'hero' Baptist minister on Titanic sells for £42,000

by Will Maule
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Source:Twitter/Pete Grieg

A letter written by a Baptist minister who died in the 1912 sinking of the Titanic has been auctioned off for £42,000. Revd John Harper penned the two-page note while travelling on the ill-fated ship, just four days before it struck an iceberg and sank.

Harper was later revealed to have acted heroically in his final moments, giving his lifejacket to another passenger and leading prayers as the ship plunged into the dark, icy waters of the mid-Atlantic.

The 39-year-old minister was travelling with his sister and daughter to a Baptist church in Chicago, where he was due to preach. Despite being offered a seat in a lifeboat, Harper opted to stay aboard the doomed ship and continued to share the gospel as the waters swamped the decks. The letter itself was addressed to a fellow preacher, "Brother Young", who led Paisley Road Church in Glasgow - the church Harper founded in 1897. 

“I am penning you this line just before we get to Queenstown to assure you that I have not forgotten you and especially all your kindness while we were north," he wrote in one section of the letter.

Concluding the correspondence, Harper added: "The Lord will repay you for it all. Very kindest love, your loving auld Pastor John Harper.”

The church would later be renamed Harper Memorial Church in honour of the minister.

On its website, Harper Memorial Church retells the story of its namesake's final moments on-board the Titanic:

"Accounts of the last minutes of the Titanic sinking indicate that John Harper was leading men and women to know the saving grace of our Lord and Saviour before they drowned.

“Accounts given indicate John Harper asked one man: ‘Has your Soul been Saved?’ and upon the negative response he gave the man his life vest. The man survived to tell the story of John Harper, but Harper’s life in this world ended. John was fully aware of his own mortality, but he was assured from God’s Word that since he was trusting in the Lord Jesus there was a place reserved for him in Heaven.”

The man whom Harper evangelised would later refer to himself as “John Harper’s Last Convert”. 

The letter was sold by a British collector in an online auction curated by Henry Aldridge & Son of Devizes, Wiltshire.

Andrew Aldridge, the auction firm's managing director, said that the letter was a hugely desirable piece. “Because it was written by a man of God on that ship means it is held in the highest regard in terms of rarity," he said. "These men are held in the same respect as the most senior officers of the ship.

"John Harper was probably one of the bravest men on that boat."

Roughly 1,500 people were lost in the sinking of the Titanic, which remains to this day one of the most deadly civilian maritime disasters in history. 

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