The Irish Post reported that the Pastor Harper letter, penned before the ship left Cobh, was auctioned off for $55,803 (£42,000) by Henry Aldridge & Son. The name of the person who won was not revealed. The contents of the letter are as follows:
My Dear Brother Young,
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.
I intended sending on Mrs Pratt’s train fares just before I left but in the rush, which was exceptional having had 11 or 12 services for the week-end, I was unable to get it done.
I will send it on from Chicago. We had a great season of blessing during the last few days in Walworth.
I don’t know how I am to thank dear Aunty Mary and yourself for all your kindness. The Lord will repay you for it all. Trust things are going well at Paisley Road. The warriors are with me here and are doing well so far on the journey.
Very kindest love, your loving auld Pastor, John Harper.
John Harper (1872-1912), a Baptist pastor from Great Britain, perished when Titanic sank in 1912. He was traveling with his six-year-old daughter Nana and his sister Jessie W. Leitch. He was going to Chicago to preach for several weeks at the Moody Church. He found his faith when he was 14 and began preaching at 18. Another pastor noticed his work and sent him to Govan, Scotland to begin ministry work. He became the first pastor in 1897 of Paisley Road Baptist Church in Glasgow, Scotland (late renamed Harper Memorial Baptist Church when it moved to Craigiehall Street in 1922).
His sister and daughter were put aboard a lifeboat while Harper remained aboard Titanic. According to survivors, he went in to the water when the ship sank. One survivor a young man clinging to debris, said Harper tried to lead him to Christ. The man said he did not believe and Harper gave him his life jacket saying he needed it more. Later he swam back and the young man was lead to Christ by Harper according to his account some years later.
A memorial headstone (his body was never recovered) is at the Craigton Cemetery in Glasgow. It says: Called to Higher Service from the decks of the Ill-fated SS Titanic. His former church was renamed for him in 1922. The book, The Titanic’s Last Hero, by Moody Adams is about John Harper.