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

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

William Douglas Weir

1877 – 1959

William Douglas Weir

Sir William Weir, 1st Viscount Weir, 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

  1. 1877 Born 12th May Glasgow, Scotland
  2. 1902 Age: 25 Managing Director, G&J Weir
  3. 1910 Age: 33 Chairman, G&J Weir
  4. 1915 Age: 38 Director of Munitions, Scotland
  5. 1917 Age: 40 Controller of Aeronautical Supplies
  6. 1917 Age: 40 Received Knighthood (KBE)
  7. 1918 Age: 41 RAF established as separate Armed Service from 1 April
  8. 1918 Age: 41 President of Air Council succeeding Lord Rothermere in April
  9. 1918 Age: 41 Sworn of the Privy Council on 27 April
  10. 1918 Age: 41 Elevated to Peerage as Baron Weir of Eastwood on 26 June
  11. 1926 Age: 49 Set up Cierva Autogiro Company with brother JG Weir as Chairman
  12. 1926 Age: 49 Set up National Electricity Grid and Central Electricity Board
  13. 1928 Age: 51 Directorships in Lloyds Bank, ICI, International Nickel
  14. 1934 Age: 57 Received Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
  15. 1935 Age: 58 Appointed special advisor to Air Ministry
  16. 1937 Age: 60 Further elevation in peerage as Viscount Weir of Eastwood
  17. 1939 Age: 62 Directorship of Shell Transport and Trading
  18. 1939 Age: 62 Director General of Explosives at Ministry of Supply
  19. 1942 Age: 65 Chairman of Tank Board
  20. 1946 Age: 69 G&J Weir become public listed company
  21. 1946 Age: 69 Weir Housing Corporation formed to produce prefabricated steel house-shells
  22. 1953 Age: 76 Retired as Chairman, G&J Weir
  23. 1957 Age: 80 Freedom of City of London
  24. 1959 Age: 82 Died 2nd July in Giffnock, Scotland

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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