Titanic Revisited Part II

There are so many untold tales and now 100 years on from the Titanic tragedy, stories continue to be retold and others narrated for the first time, linked to the events that unfolded in the wake of the tragedy. Not only do we read accounts of those who were on the boat, but the event is used in fiction, a convenient device for eliminating a character such as the loss of the cousin and heir in Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey series, this event triggering the inheritance crisis that is at the centre of this drama. I read that if all the characters from fictional novels were indeed on the Titanic, it would more than triple the number of passengers she carried and sink it for sure.

Christopher Ward’sAnd the Band Played On’ relates what happened after the sinking, the confusion and sometimes fictitious messages portrayed by the media, the arrival of the rescue ship SS Carpathia and the subsequent sailing and controversy surrounding the decisions made on-board the Mackay-Bennett, commissioned to return to the site to retrieve bodies. The author is the grandson of Jock Hume and Mary Costin; Jock was on the Titanic and his fiancé Mary awaited his return, three months pregnant with their first and only child.

The Daily Mirror assured its readers that all 2,209 passengers and crew on board the Titanic had been saved  and that ‘the hapless giant’ was being towed safely to New York.

Jock Hume was a 21-year-old Scottish violinist who had made many sailings across the Atlantic; it is believed he lied about his age as he first went to sea in 1905, when he was 14 years old. On the Titanic’s embarkation list, his age is given as 28. He stood on deck with the other members of the band and they played music until it was no longer possible, the band knowing that their act of altruism would likely be the death of them. It is a memory that many survivors recalled, those who were fortunate enough to be waiting in a lifeboat, watching the tragedy unfold before them to tunes that would forever haunt them.

Jock Hume & fiancé Mary Costin

When it was no longer possible to stand, they strapped their instruments to their chests and jumped into the freezing cold waters together. None of the band members survived, however two of their bodies were recovered, Band Master Wallace Hartley (his violin case still strapped to him) and Jock Hume. Hours after the Titanic sank, White Star Line commissioned the Mackay-Bennett to recover the bodies of victims. Of the 209 bodies they brought back, 150 were laid to rest at three Halifax cemeteries. Jock Hume was buried in the Fairview cemetery, a site where visitors still pay their respects today.

The book shares little of the lives of Jock and Mary and focuses more on Jock’s father Andrew Hume, who was also a violinist. He paints an ugly picture of Andrew Hume as a difficult father, a fraudulent businessman and profiteer of his son’s death who rejected Mary and made disturbing accusations against her and the unborn child.

Ward recounts the trial of Jock’s 18-year-old sister Kate who pulled a prank on her father and stepmother in the form of a letter informing them of enemy involvement in her sister’s death during WWI; this escalated into a national outrage and the risk of contravening a newly passed Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) which gave the government wide-ranging powers for the duration of the First World War. Anyone charged under the Act would face a military trial by court martial with a maximum sentence of death by hanging or firing squad.

Heroic Musicians of the Titanic

The account of well researched historical facts following the sinking of the Titanic, lend the story a credibility that kept me interested throughout the book. What left me somewhat bemused was the sense of judgement against the Grandfather Andrew Hume. True, he appears to have been less than the perfect father, but he was a successful and motivated businessman and musician, even if exaggeration and a few lies did assist him (doesn’t that continue today?). However, between these pages, there is little room for compassion for the man, we only see him in the most negative light, which I find a little sad in a story portrayed by his great-grandson. To lose a wife, a son and be subject to the murderous revenge of his daughter surely deserves an ounce of compassion, no matter how unscrupulous he was as a person.

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15 thoughts on “Titanic Revisited Part II

  1. very interesting review – this well rounded reveiw made the book intriguing. we have a print of the Titanic hanging in our house with an original ticket for the maiden and only voyage – I sometimes think it is bad luck

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  2. These kind of accidents always seem to perpetrate passionate stories that one is never sure is fact or just plain old fiction. What an interesting read this books seems to be. Although, I’ll never read it because I have this thing with boats. I would never choose to go on a cruise. The thought of sailing and not seeing land freaks me out! I mist be agoraphobic.Is it possible to be agoraphobic and claustrophobic at the same time?

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    • There are the facts and then there are the perceptions of people which vary wildly, even on the rescue boat some people thought the crew were lying to them they saw there was late night activity and assumed their own ship was in trouble.

      I love the sea and sail boats, the quiet kind with big sails that dolphins like to tag along with, island hopping is more my thing than the wide open sea though.

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      • So what are you reading now. I’m reading Sue Miller’s The Senator’s Wife. This is the first Sue Miller I’ve read so don’t really know what to expect. Have you read any of her books? If so what do you think? Stay tuned for a post in a couple of days

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      • I don’t know Sue Miller, but just starting Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road and can’t wait to read it, I have a book of her short stories as well called ‘Reality Reality’. About to post my review of ‘Wild’ 🙂

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  3. “And as the smart ship grew
    In stature, grace and hue,
    In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.”

    How chilling is that quote? (Ack! Pun not intended.) Thanks for sharing another post that gives us a look at a deeply personal connection to the Titanic. It’s these intimate portraits that add to the mosaic of life.

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    • What’s interesting as well is that the author takes pity on Kate, while the newspaper entries at the time seem to take more pity on the father. It all depends who is telling the story, which is one of the delights of storytelling in my view, the way we can sympathise with the least likely suspects.

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  4. A fine and interesting review. I am always enthralled by any story of the Titanic. I still weep when I watch the film. The moment of the band playing ‘orpheus’ and their heroic death are very poignant. It would be an honour to read a book by a descendant of one of them

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  5. I enjoyed this review. I went to a Titanic memorial at my local museum earlier this summer, and loved reading about all the different people that were on board. It was so sad to imagine, though. One woman was separated from her baby and wasn’t reunited with him until days later because another woman claimed the baby was her son. Apparently, two of the men “organizing” the rescue boats stripped her son from her hands and put them in separate boats. I remember thinking, “Why in God’s name would you rip a baby from his mother’s arms?” I mean, I know everything was so hectic and terrifying on the ship, but why would you even think to do that to a woman? It just baffled my mind. The true stories were so much more interesting to read about than the movie they made with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. I wish they would’ve taken true passenger events and brought them to life through the screen. Jack and Rose’s story is tragic and interesting, but I think sticking to something truer to the actual events would’ve been better.

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    • There are so many amazing stories aren’t there, speaking of babies, there was a photo of two babies (siblings) in the book who survived but were unidentified for a while until their French mother saw them on a news clip, her husband had kidnapped the two children and was returning to the US with them, he didn’t survive but the children did and were eventually reunited with their mother – incredible but true story!

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  6. Pingback: Death off The Lifeboat « Word by Word

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