This is the tale of a High Blantyre teenager, who would have certainly remembered his Christmas 1929 and into New Year 1930. The 19-year old chancer stowed away on board a luxury passenger ship. However, this was no story of hiding in a lifeboat, or in an engine room. The sheer bravado of this Blantyre teen, saw him masquerading as a passenger, and managed to do the whole 20 day sea voyage half way round the world for free. The cabin accommodation costs alone would have normally been in todays money, over £2,500. Sounds like an excellent plot for a film!
The exploits of a nineteen-year-old stowaway who, it was stated, walked aboard a passenger steamer at Wellington, New Zealand, bluffed a steward into giving him a cabin that would cost a passenger £40 (about £2,300 in todays money), and even managed to send wireless messages to his family in Scotland asking them to foot the bill, were described at East Ham Police Court on Saturday 11th January 1930.
In the dock was Samuel Weir (19), a miner, giving his address as 311 Main Street, Kirkton, High Blantyre. He was charged with being a stowaway on the New Zealand’s Company’s steamer, Rangitiki. Mr Peregrine, who prosecuted, said the case of the Samuel Weir was out of the ordinary; in fact, he might have been charged with an indictable offence. It was no attempt to get home, but seemed to be simply a wish to holiday in luxury at the expense of the shipping company.
When the ‘Rangitiki’ was in harbour at Wellington, NZ, Samuel Weir, at the nearby dock, posed as a “ship enthusiast” and asked a crane operator who was loading the ship a few innocent questions about the ship and capacity of passengers. During that conversation, Weir noticed a passenger manifesto and in particular noted several numbers of cabins which would be empty on the forthcoming voyage. Later that day, 2 days before the ship sailed, Weir went on board and did a quick survey of those cabin numbers, choosing for himself, the most luxurious and spacious cabin with sea views.
2 days later, when the “Rangitiki’ was about to sail, he went back on board, smartly dressed with a practically empty suitcase and a ukelele in his hands. He boarded amongst the other passengers, and when he met a official steward, he announced to him that his cabin was No. 392, having previously picked out that nice accommodation. He was guided to his cabin, and told “to have a nice holiday, sir.”
Thereafter, for a whole twenty days, Weir slept on the most comfortable bed, had housekeeping make his room each day, was served with the finest passenger’s food morning, noon and night and he enjoyed all the dances, smoking, drinks, shows and entertainments on board all on the presumption to others that his ticket had already been paid for in advance. Fortune had favoured Samuel Weir in the early days of the voyage, as it had happened that cabin 392 had not been booked by anybody else.
By the end of the voyage, Weir had defrauded the company of £40, and when was challenged he said—“That’s all right; my people in Scotland will pay when the vessel gets to Southampton.” At his request, a sum of about £3 was also spent on wireless messages, and it was discovered his family were not in a position to be able to pay the debt. As Weir stood in that English court (a smartly-dressed young fellow), he seemed much amused at the recital of his masquerade, and more than once covered the lower part of his face to hide his smiles.
He said he had absolutely nothing to say in defence, and the Mayor said the Bench regarded it a serious offence, but they would take his youth into consideration. There were further smiles on his face, when he avoided jail and was asked to pay a fine of just £5.(about £285 in todays money.)
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c)2016
Are you related to Samuel Weir? I’d love to know if he paid it, or asked his family to! Pictured is the Rangitiki, the lounge in the 1930s that Weir would have relaxed in and a sample of the on board find cuisine he dined out on.
Thank you to Gillian Cunningham for finding the passenger list for Samuel heading FROM Scotland out to New Zealand beforehand. With an occupation in farming, 17 year old Samuel set out on 26th April 1928 by ship heading to NZ. He travelled alone and was passenger 312, travelling officially this time as 3rd class (where i BET he caught a glimpse of how the 1st class passengers were treated!). All adds to the story. Thank you!
On social media:
Jane Johnstone I have relations who are ‘Weirs’!
Jane Johnstone Don’t think they would know of this tale though, sorry. I would have probably heard about it at my Grannie’s if it had been known by the family!
Kathy Grant Cost me $2400 for 15 nights to Fiji and the South Pacific lol
Maryann McCue Brilliant story 😀
Marian Maguire Great story, could be a film.
Gillian Cunningham What was he doing in Wellington ? Had he emigrated and wnated to come home ?