John Harper
Rev. John Harper
Born(1872-05-29)29 May 1872
Died15 April 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 39)

John Harper (29 May 1872 – 15 April 1912) was a Scottish Baptist pastor who died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Early life

Harper was born in the village of Houston, Renfrewshire, Scotland, in 1872. He personally embraced his parents' Christian faith at age 14 and began preaching at 18. He supported himself in early adulthood by doing manual labor in a mill until Baptist pastor E.A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London heard of his preaching and placed him in ministry work in Govan, Scotland.[1]

Paisley Road Baptist Church

In 1897, he became the first pastor of Paisley Road Baptist Church in Glasgow, Scotland. Under his care, the church quickly grew from 25 members to over 500 and soon moved to a new location on Plantation Street. In 1923, it moved into its present building on Craigiehall Street and was renamed Harper Memorial Baptist Church in his honor.[2]

Titanic: final preaching and death

At the time of the Titanic disaster, Harper was 39, a widower with a six-year-old daughter, Annie Jessie (Nana), and pastor of Walworth Road Baptist Church in London. He was traveling with his daughter and niece Jessie W. Leitch to Chicago to preach for several weeks at the Moody Church, where he had been guest minister the previous fall, when the ship hit an iceberg on the night of 14 April 1912, and was lost. His daughter and niece were put on a lifeboat and survived, but Harper stayed behind and jumped into the water as the ship began to sink. Some who survived told that Harper preached the Gospel to the end (especially Acts 16:31), first aboard the sinking ship and then afterward to those in the freezing water before dying in it himself.


The story of John Harper aboard the Titanic is told in the book, The Titanic's Last Hero, published by Moody Adams in 1988. According to the book, it is based on testimonies published in Scotland in 1912.

A children's version of John Harper's last days on board the Titanic was published by Christian Focus Publications in March 2011 titled 'Titanic – Ship of Dreams – John Harper' written by Robert Plant.

As noted above, when Harper's church, Paisley Road West Church, Glasgow, moved into its new building, it was named Harper Memorial Church in his honour.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Monthly Evangel (June 1912). "Rev. John Harper, One of the "Titanic" Victims". Archived from the original on 20 February 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2009.
  2. ^ "Harper Church • History". Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2017.