William Mair

M, #1949, b. 13 February 1899, d. 2 October 1942
     William Mair was born on 13 February 1899 at Church Street, Portsoy, Banffshire, Scotland.1 He was the son of Alexander Mair and Helen Wood. His family was known by the tee-name of "Shavie".
He was listed as head of household's son in the 1901 census at Shore Street, Portsoy, Banffshire, Scotland. Those recorded in the household were: Alexander Mair, head; Helen Mair, wife; William Mair, son.2
William Mair was a fisherman. He married Margaret Jane Adelaide Gatt at The Institute, Portsoy, Banffshire, Scotland, on 28 March 1924.1 He was the informant for, and present at, Alexander Mair's death at Rocklyn, Barbank Street, Portsoy, Banffshire, Scotland, on 17 September 1927.3,1 William Mair was in the Royal Naval Reserve and was skipper of the river gunboat HMS Robin. HMS Robin was deployed as Boom Defence Depot Ship at Hong Kong in 1841. After the Japanese declaration of war, on 8 December 1941, she was deployed to assist Royal Navy ships remaining in Hong Kong for defence of the colony. On 25 December 1941 she was deployed in support of a landing party against the invading Japanese on the west coast of Hong Kong island and came under sustained and heavy air attacks. Disabled during the attacks, and unable to provide further assistance, HMS Robin was scuttled. Skipper William Mair was among those captured in Hong Kong and began imprisonment by the Japanese.4 William died on 2 October 1942 at sea aboard the 'SS Lisbon Maru', off the coast of China, at age 43. William Mair, a prisoner of war, was being transported by the Japanese from Hong Kong to Shanghai on the 'SS Lisbon Maru' with 1816 prisoners on board. The ship was sighted by the American submarine 'USS Grouper', attacked and sunk 6 miles from "Tung Fusham Island" (probably Dongfushan Island), off the China coast at 29°57' N, 122°56' E. As the ship sank slowly by the stern, the Japanese battened down the hatches on the holds in which the POWs were incarcerated and in which William Mair, and many others, perished.4,5


  1. [S772] Robert Mair, Neil Pirie, Information kindly supplied by Robert Mair of Durham, England.
  2. [S6907] 1901, Scottish Census, "William Mair, son, male, age 2, born in Banffshire, Portsoy, resident in Shore Street."
  3. [S3539] Alexander Mair, Register of Deaths in the District of Portsoy in the County of Banff, "Alexander Mair, Fisherman, Married to Helen Wood, died 1927, September Seventeenth 9h 0m A.M. at Rocklyn, Portsoy, Male, 56 years, Father: William Mair, Fisherman, deceased, Mother: Ann Mair M.S. Falconer, deceased, Cause of death: Carcinoma of Pancreas, as certified by John W. Macrae M.B. Ch.B., Portsoy, Informant: William Mair, Son, 7 North High Street, Portsoy, Present, Registered: 1927, September 19th at Portsoy, James Stewart Registrar."
  4. [S5895] Norman McKay, Neil Pirie, Information kindly supplied by Norman McKay of Havant, Hampshire, England.
  5. [S5896] Debt of Honour Register and certificate, Casualty No 2470218, "In memory of Skipper William Mair, H.M.S. Robin, Royal Naval Reserve who died on 02 October 1942 Age 43. Son of Alexander and Helen Wood Mair; husband of Margaret Jane Adelaide Mair, of Portsoy, Banffshire. Remembered with honour. Chatham Naval Memorial. Commemorated in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission."