Pastor John Harper drowned with 1500 others when the RMS Titanic sank in the early hours of 15 April 1912. He had founded the Baptist Church in the Plantation district of Glasgow where he ministered for 13 years. During that time, his wife Annie died and was buried in Craigton Cemetery where a monument was erected to her. John left Glasgow to lead a church in London. A renowned preacher, he was on his way with his six year old daughter Nana to the Moody Church in Chicago for a second visit as a guest speaker when the tragedy happened. The state-of-the-art ship was holed by an iceberg and sank within hours. Pastor John gave his life jacket to another man who was one of the few rescued from the icy waters. His name and his sacrifice were recorded on his wife’s headstone.
When the Plantation church was rebuilt many years later, it was named the Harper Memorial Baptist Church and was opened by Nana Harper. Quietly attending the memorial service in Craigton and laying their own flowers at the monument which tells the tragic story, were John Harper’s grand-daughter, Dr Mary Gurling, her sons Stephen and Paul and her nephew, Andrew Pont. Said Stephen: ‘We are standing on the shoulders of giants through this inspiring legacy.’
The memorial and re-dedication service was organised by the Harper Memorial Baptist Church as one of several events during their Titanic commemorative weekend, 100 years after the terrible disaster.
The service was conducted by preacher Craig Dyer who introduced Dr Erwin W. Lutzer who has been pastor for 32 years at the Moody Church in Chicago where John Harper was going. In his epilogue Dr Lutzer said: “When I became a Pastor there, you walked down the hall to the John Harper meeting room.” In his passionate witness he explained that there was compelling evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the death. “Jesus was the forerunner. But you can’t get into Heaven with your physical body. The spirit can be released through faith, alone, in Jesus Christ. John Harper believed that and was able to say as the ship sank – ‘I’m not going down; I’m going up (to Heaven)’ ”
Among the guests of honour were Bailie Iris Gibson who brought greetings from the Lord Provost and said the City had been pleased to refurbish the lettering on the memorial stone in Craigton. ‘Pastor John Harper’s story deserves to be better known,’ she said. Also speaking was Councillor Alistair Watson who told how he’d grown up in the district, played in the cemetery and knew John Harper’s story. ‘It is humbling to know of his remarkable self-sacrifice,’ said Councillor Watson. ‘He will feature in a booklet detailing the heritage trail through Craigton Cemetery. That is due to be printed soon and will tell the story to an even bigger audience.’ Also present were Councillor Stephen Dornan and Rebecca Lutzer, Dr Lutzer’s wife. MSP John Mason, who is an active member of the Baptist Church in Easterhouse, attended as a practising Christian and supportive church member and preferred to stand in the crowd.
Hymns and prayers were offered in thanks and tribute to John Harper and his sacrifice.
In the crowd were two particularly dedicated students of the Titanic. Andrew Learmonth, dressed in respectful white shirt and black tie, said he has been ‘obsessed’ by the disaster and all the attendant details since childhood. ‘My flat in Glasgow is like a Titanic Museum,’ he admitted. He is a member of the Titanic Historic Society, the British Titanic Society and the Ulster Historic Society – the ship was built in Belfast where a new museum has been opened to promote the fact. He recently visited Southampton to see the vessel which left to make the commemorative voyage of the fated Titanic.
Giving out sheets telling the story of John Harper and showing a dramatic image drawn at the time, was Brian Brodie, a fire officer at Govan fire station. He pointed out that the Titanic was correctly referred to as RMS Titanic. ‘That stands for Royal Mail Ship, Titanic,’ explained the former marine engineer. ‘It shouldn’t be SS – sailing ship – Titanic as engraved on the memorial stone.’ Enthusiastically, he walks visitors through Craigton Cemetery to tell them John Harper’s story, show them the monument and visit other interesting grave stones with their own fascinating stories.
The Harper Memorial Church’s programme continues through Sunday 15 April 2012 with a morning service conducted by Jim Wylie, soloist Gillian Strang and guest speaker Dr Lutzer of Moody Church, Chicago. In the evening, Walter Whitelaw offers the welcome for the celebration with Dr Lutzer preaching and the Govan Salvation Army Band playing.
On Friday 13 April, the Glasgow congregation held a holiday club for schoolchildren and a rock concert in the evening for young people. Both events were well attended and have strengthened the Church’s outreach, especially in the local communities around Kinning Park and Plantation off Paisley Road West.
From football to franchising, Gerry Carey’s career so far has been an eventful one. As Director of Retail Operations at Glasgow Rangers, a short-lived attachment as Chief Executive of Partick Thistle that remains a huge ‘what if?’ among fans, and early-stage consultancy with the Poland-Ukraine 2012 European international football championships, there’s a sense that he’s someone who likes a business challenge.
Little surprise, then, that his most recent venture is challenging some of the world’s biggest coffee shop chains on their own doorsteps as master franchise holder for The Streat.
The Streat was founded in Belfast 11 years ago by husband-and-wife team Michael and Nikki McQuillan. Since that time, carried by a wave of business optimism that followed momentous political events in Northern Ireland and capitalising on the city’s bar and cafe culture, the McQuillans expanded from three shops to a chain of 25 and kicked off a healthy franchise business.
‘I bumped into the folk from The Streat, who had a stand at an exhibition I was visiting in Birmingham,’ said Gerry. ‘They told me they were looking for someone to develop the brand in Scotland, and initially I said no. I never imagined myself going down the cafe market route.
‘They said they wanted someone to develop the business, not run the cafes. We talked, and eventually John Belardo and myself bought the licence for Scotland.’
With retail expertise and no small experience in the field thanks to work with an organisation called The Franchise Company, what was it about the The Streat and its business model that persuaded Gerry?
‘I asked myself that question and there are a number of reasons why. I did due diligence on the business, and they’d grown from three cafes to 25 in a five-year period in Northern Ireland. They’d just opened in Dublin and were planning to expand into Scotland,’ he said.
‘Despite the fact you’ve got Costa, Coffee Republic, Nero and Starbucks in Ireland as well, Belfast is no different to Glasgow, other than it’s smaller. I thought, if they’ve done that up against these big players, how have they done it?’
The Streat’s offerings also proved attractive. ‘One of the things that caught our attention was the width of the menu. Coffee is the basis of the business model, but added to that there’s a wide menu. It’s coffee, cakes, panini, there’s an Irish soda breakfast, porridge, salads for lunch, a kids’ menu.
‘Being a family man, I can go and enjoy a really nice coffee and I can also bring the kids. Or, I’m a businessman and I can meet people in a really nice environment.’
Gerry added: ‘The model is not unique, it’s not niche but it’s “let’s take what works”. There’s also the outside catering element, which gives the opportunity to increase revenue.’
For anyone who wants to take a business forward quickly, franchising is a good way of doing it, said Gerry.
‘It avoids you bringing in business angels or borrowing heavily. If you wanted to start independently you’d need a lot of financial resources to make that happen.
‘I call it a business in a box. You get a box of tools and the franchisee can run their business with a brand and expertise behind them. I wouldn’t have opened a cafe in Scotland if I hadn’t done it through a franchise network.’