Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Weir Autogiro

The second Weir designed autogiro the W-2 seen in flight during a demonstration at the Cierva company base at Hanworth in 1934.

William WeirWilliam Douglas Weir, 1st Viscount Weir (1877-1959), engineer and industrialist who held key posts in two world wars and created the National Grid

Engineering achievements

Weir served an engineering apprenticeship in the company founded by his father and uncle, G&J Weir, and rose to become managing director and chairman. During this period he laid the foundation for the expansion of what was essentially a local firm into a worldwide engineering group. He acted as advisor to successive governments on matters pertaining to industry, armaments and particularly the production of aircraft. In WW1 he was Controller of Aeronautical Supplies and, as President of the Air Council was influential in the setting up of the RAF as a separate fighting force. In the inter-war years he was responsible for the establishment of the National Electricity Grid, Central Electricity Board and numerous other Trade and Industry initiatives. Prior to WW2, he was recalled as special advisor to the Secretary of State for Air and advisor on National Defence with particular input into the expansion of aircraft production.

His Life

Age Event Year
Born 12th May Glasgow, Scotland 1877
25 Managing Director, G&J Weir 1902
33 Chairman, G&J Weir 1910
38 Director of Munitions, Scotland 1915
40 Controller of Aeronautical Supplies 1917
40 Received Knighthood (KBE) 1917
41 RAF established as separate Armed Service from 1 April 1918
41 President of Air Council succeeding Lord Rothermere in April 1918
41 Sworn of the Privy Council on 27 April 1918
41 Elevated to Peerage as Baron Weir of Eastwood on 26 June 1918
49 Set up Cierva Autogiro Company with brother JG Weir as Chairman 1926
49 Set up National Electricity Grid and Central Electricity Board 1926
51 Directorships in Lloyds Bank, ICI, International Nickel 1928
57 Received Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath 1934
58 Appointed special advisor to Air Ministry 1935
60 Further elevation in peerage as Viscount Weir of Eastwood 1937
62 Directorship of Shell Transport and Trading 1939
62 Director General of Explosives at Ministry of Supply 1939
65 Chairman of Tank Board 1942
69 G&J Weir become public listed company 1946
69 Weir Housing Corporation formed to produce prefabricated steel house-shells 1946
76 Retired as Chairman, G&J Weir 1953
80 Freedom of City of London 1957
82 Died 2nd July in Giffnock, Scotland 1959

His Legacy

Lord Weir was a hugely successful Chairman of G&J Weir and he expanded that company into one of Britain's leading engineering groups. There were other talented engineers in the Weir family who were influential in the company's success, but William Weir's lasting legacy is the setting up of the United Kingdom electrical supply and distribution system, his leadership of the development of the aircraft industry in its early days and the establishment of the RAF and its expansion prior to the Battle of Britain. His work was critical at two pivotal times in world history, and influential in Britain prevailing in two World Wars. He was one of a small number of engineers to reach high office and influence in government.

More Information

Some Developments in Aircraft Design and Application during the War Lord Weir of Eastwood, North East Coast Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders. 10th July 1919.
The Weir Group, The history of a Scottish engineering legend, 1871-2008. William Weir, Profile Books, 2008
The Weir Group - A Centenary History W.J. Reader, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, , London, 1971 ISBN 0 29700463 8
Architect of air power: the life of the first Viscount Weir of Eastwood 1877-1959. W.J. Reader, Collins, London. 1968
There is a Weir W-2 autogyro G-ACVA in the Connect gallery of the National Museum of Scotland
The papers of William Weir are in The University of Glasgow Business Archives
Weir Autogiro and Helicopter Development Jean-Pierre Harrison. 66th American Helicopter Society International Annual Forum 2010. Phoenix, Arizona, USA. 11-13 May 2010. Volume 1 of 3, p. 2828. ISBN: 978-1-61782-926-0
There are six portraits of William Douglas Weir held in the National Portrait Gallery.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry (full text available to subscribers and UK library members)

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