The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

John Charles Bigham, later Lord Mersey

John Charles Bigham, later Lord Mersey

A cabinet card portrait of the British jurist and politician John Charles Bigham (1840-1929), created Baron Mersey in 1910, and raised in the peerage from baron to viscount in 1916.

After early success as a lawyer, and a less successful spell as a politician, he was appointed a judge, working in commercial law. After his retirement, Mersey remained active in public affairs, and is probably best remembered for heading the official Board of Trade inquiries into the sinking of steamships, most notably the RMS Titanic, the RMS Lusitania, and the RMS Empress of Ireland.

Lord Mersey received his greatest fame in 1912 when he was appointed to head the inquiry commission into the sinking of the RMS Titanic. There was some criticism of his handling of the inquiry; some felt he was biased towards the Board of Trade and the major shipping concerns and cared too little about finding out why the ship sank. In 1998, the historian Daniel Butler described Mersey as ‘autocratic, impatient and not a little testy’, but noted the ‘surprising objectivity’ of the inquiry's findings.

Viscount Mersey died at Littlehampton, aged 89, on 3 September 1929.

Photographed by Elliott and Fry of London.


Code: 125731
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