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William Weir

(1877—1959) industrialist and public servant


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William Douglas Weir (first viscount) (1887–1959) was a leading industrialist. As president and director of the family firm G. and J. Weir Ltd, Glasgow, he was appointed as Scottish Director of Munitions between 1916 and 1917. This was a tricky task as the Clyde was experiencing a wave of industrial protest and wildcat strikes over pay and conditions (see ‘Red Clydeside’). Weir's approach was uncompromising and he had strike leaders arrested which tended to inflame the situation, although at the same time he was forced to offer concessions. Weir was instrumental in bringing new working practices to the munitions industry which helped to improve productivity and increase output. Such changes, however, were not popular with the workers who believed that this was the introduction of ‘Taylorism’ from America which would see jobs deskilled and working conditions eroded. In 1917 he was appointed as Controller of Aeronautical Supplies and was a member of the Air Board which helped to bring the Royal Army Flying Corps (the future Royal Air Force) into existence. Weir was soon in charge as Director-General of Aircraft Production which helped to establish the modern aircraft industry in Britain with engines being built at Beardmores (see beardmore, william, & co.) in Glasgow. After the war, Weir continued to maintain his interest in aircraft by taking an active role in the development of civil aviation. Weir built a reputation for himself as a hard headed, practical man of business during the war and, in spite of favourable recognition from the Conservative Party (see Unionism), did not maintain an active role in politics during the inter-war period. Even his activities in the business community during this period were fairly low key. Weir's services were called upon again during the Second World War where his expertise was put to use as the Director-General of Explosives at the Ministry of Supply. His knowledge of industrial machine production led to his appointment on the Tank Board in 1942.

From The Oxford Companion to Scottish History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: British History.


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