Margaret Weir was born in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, in 1864. She had been married to William Weir but by the outbreak of the Great War, he was probably dead.
She was a professional stewardess in the Mercantile Marine, and had served with the Cunard Steam Ship Company for some years. On 15th April 1915, she had engaged at Glasgow as a stewardess on the Anchor Lines vessel the S.S. Cameronia for her voyage to the United States of America and back. However, at the end of April 1915, having completed the voyage to New York the
Cameronia was requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war use as a troop ship.
Consequently, on 1st May 1915, nine crew members not needed for her new rôle, (stewards and stewardesses,) were officially transferred to the
Lusitania. These included Margaret Weir who relocated to the Stewards' Department on board, for the
Lusitania's 201st voyage. The liner’s scheduled 10.00 a.m. sailing was then delayed until the afternoon, because of the time it took to load cargo and embark the passengers and crew.
The Lusitania finally left port just after mid-day and just six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20. At that point, she was off The Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland and only 250 miles hours away from her Liverpool home port destination. Out of 22 stewardesses who had sailed from New York, only 9 survived and Margaret Weir was not amongst this six. She was aged 51 years.
Her body was one of the first to be recovered from the sea afterwards, however and having been landed at Queenstown, it was given the reference number 40, in a temporary mortuary set up in the yard of the Cunard office at Lynch’s Quay. It was then buried on 10th May 1915 in The Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, in Mass Grave C, First Row, Lower Tier, where it remains today. This was the day when most of the victims of the sinking were buried, following a long funeral procession which began at the Cunard office on the waterfront.
Property recovered from her body, which may have aided its identification, was handed over to Messrs. Oatts & Rodgers, who were solicitors, of 113, Vincent Street, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, on behalf of her sister, a Mrs. Moodie, on 22nd September 1915. This property included a 9 carat gold wedding ring, a 9 carat gold keeper ring, a gold plated ring with a claw setting and the stone missing and a stud.
Despite the fact that Margaret Weir has an identifiable burial site, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware of the fact and after the Great War, commemorated her on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.
However, once the author had established beyond doubt that she was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, the Commission agreed to erect a permanent memorial to her where she is buried, and this was done in November 1998.
It takes the form of a monument of Irish limestone, sited at the head of Mass Grave B, the centre one of the three. The names of crew members buried in the three mass graves are incised on two black granite panels on the memorial, with a legend in between them, which reads: -
1914 - 1918
IN HONOURED MEMORY
OF THOSE NAMED WHO,
SERVING ON THE
DIED WHEN THE SHIP WAS
SUNK BY ENEMY ACTION
ON 7 MAY 1915
AND ARE BURIED NEARBY
The name of Margaret Weir is incised on the right hand panel.
The Commission has also stated that should it ever be necessary to renew the panel bearing her name on the Tower Hill Memorial, her name would be omitted from its replacement.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, PRO BT 334.