Runciman, Walter, 1st Baron Runciman

WM shipowner and generous benefactor, born at Dunbar, on 6 July 1847, and grew up at Cresswell coastguard station, Northumberland, where both Methodism and the sea were profound influences on his life. His father (also Walter Runciman) was a WM local preacher. Three of his brothers and a sister became authors. Walter ran away from home at 12 and served before the mast. He gained his master mariner's certificate in 1871 and for 25 years sailed the seas, captaining his ships from 1873. He remained a keen yachtsman throughout his life. In 1885 he established himself as a shipowner at South Shields, and later at Newcastle upon Tyne. He built up the Moor Line and later acquired a controlling interest in the Anchor Line, building up a considerable fortune. He was President of the United Kingdom Chamber of Shipping 1910-1911. He was active in civic and political life and was Liberal MP for Hartlepool 1914-1918. He was knighted in 1906 and raised to the peerage in 1933 as Baron Runciman of Shoreston. He was President of the Shipping Federation from 1932 to 1937. He remained a dedicated Methodist, serving as a local preacher, and was a lifelong teetotaler. He wrote an autobiography, Before the Mast and After (1924). At the *Methodist Church Congress in 1929 he spoke on 'The Peril of Secular Civilization - at Home'. He died at Newcastle upon Tyne on 13 August 1937.

His son, also Walter, born at South Shields on 19 November 1870, was elected Liberal MP for Oldham in 1899 and for Dewsbury from 1902 to 1918. He served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury during Asquith's period as Chancellor and was President of the Board of Trade from 1914 to 1916 and again from 1931 to 1937. became the second Baronet Runciman in 1933 and was raised to the peerage as Viscount Runciman of Doxford in 1938, shortly before his father's death. He died on 14 November 1949.

  • Times, 14 Aug 1937
  • Methodist Recorder, 19 Aug 1937
  • C.J. James, MP for Dewsbury: one hundred years of parliamentary representation (Brighouse, 1970)
  • G.E. Milburn, 'Piety, Profit and Paternalism', in WHS Proceedings, vol. 44 (1983-84)
  • N.D. Daglish, 'A difficult and somewhat thankless task': politics, religion and the Education Bill of 1908', in Journal of Educational Administration and History, vol.31 (1999) pp.19-35
  • Dictionary of Business Biography
  • Oxford DNB