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“Always Marked by Refinement & Musicianship”: John Wesley Woodward

"Always Marked by Refinement and Musicianship": John Wesley Woodward

John Wesley Woodward was 32 years old when he boarded Titanic with his "best cello."

Wes, as he was called, had been a maritime musician for some time. His most recent trip had been a longer-term stint on the Caronia, and he had even been on board Titanic's sister Olympic when she collided with the HMS Hawke on September 20, 1911. In fact, Wes and two of his bandmates had been playing checkers at the moment of impact.

Damage sustained by the RMS Olympic in a collision with the HMS Hawke, 1911. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


Wes was born in England in 1879.

He was the youngest child in a brood of nine, although by the time Wes reached adolescence, he already suffered the loss of two brothers and his father, Joseph. Joseph worked as a manager at a holloware foundry, otherwise known as a factory that specialized in producing bowls, teapots, pitchers, and the like.

In 1900, Wes was granted a licentiate as a cellist, meaning that he was officially qualified to teach music. By the next year, at all of 21 years old, Wes is noted on the census as a musician, which meant he successfully earned his living as such.

Wes was by all accounts a dapper and convivial fellow, his countenance always focused and calm from behind his wire-rimmed spectacles.

He was highly sought after for his musical prowess, and was continually recruited into both solo and orchestral work. In 1910, he traveled to Jamaica to work at Constant Spring Hotel, where "his sunny disposition render[ed] him a favourite wherever he went." He later told friends that this stint in the Caribbean had done wonders to improve his health.

Once back in Southampton in 1911, Wes signed onto the RMS Olympic's maiden voyage alongside John Law Hume, a Scottish violinist who would later become his bandmate on Titanic.

When the RMS Olympic arrived in New York City on June 21, 1911, Wes seized the opportunity to expand his horizons. Since Olympic would not depart for England until June 28th, Wes spent the week educating himself on American music stylings. The periodical Brighton Advertiser later reported that Wes "had a very high opinion of the Americans as lovers of music."

Courtesy of the RMS Olympic, Wes Woodward visited New York thrice more that year.


Titanic's elder sister Olympic, arriving at port circa 1911. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


But after the Olympic was laid up due to the aforementioned incident with the HMS Hawke, Wes was forced to take work on the Caronia, a smaller Cunard vessel.

Between November of 1911 and February of 1912, Wes bounced between Liverpool, New York City, and Mediterranean locations like Gibraltar, Egypt, Monaco, and Italy.

So much travel presented Wes with an opportunity to indulge in one of his other, lesser known hobbies: photography, an art he also exceled in. Wes was also fascinated by engineering, and reportedly spent hours in his workshop studying and building the mechanisms of internal combustion engines.

Although Wes insisted to his friends that he enjoyed the spontaneity of a life lived at sea, he was ready to transition to a happy life on land. He hoped to join an orchestra in Eastbourne, and was reportedly intending to be engaging to an unnamed young woman from London.

He just needed to get through the summer of 1912.

Titanic docked in Southampton.


Wes boarded Titanic on April 10th in Southampton along with seven other musicians.

He was already friendly with John Law Hume, whom he had not seen since the Olympic's accident in September of the previous year, and may have been acquainted with one of the pianists, Theo Brailey. Wes most likely had at least heard mention of the others--and they of him. The musical world was a small one, and he and several of his bandmates had a mutual friend in common: a musician named Edgar Heap who had played with at least five of them in the recent past.

Technically employed as they were via C.W. & F.N. Black out of Liverpool, all eight musicians boarded as Second-Class passengers with a shared ticket number of 250654. The group divided themselves between two cabins.

The musicians probably boarded and became acquainted with one another by the mid-morning; they had their first show all together at 11:30 a.m., when they were scheduled to play as First-Class passengers boarded and were greeted with champagne flutes.

They would then have to hustle to their next planned locations, to be in place for First-Class luncheon. A letter written by First-Class passenger Adolphe Saalfeld also confirms that some bandmembers later played that evening for First-Class teatime as well.

Their schedules and assignments throughout the voyage were distributed by bandmaster Wallace Hartley. Three of the musicians would remain rather stationary, playing primarily on B Deck near dining First-Class passengers. The remaining five men were to float to various locations for concerts in both First- and Second-Class.

On April 11th, Second-Class passenger Juliette LaRoche mentioned the musicians in a letter posted to her father.

"I am writing to you from the reading room ['salon de lecture'] and there is a concert next to me: a violin, two cellos [and] a piano."

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

And since the band members were also boarded as Second-Class passengers, their fellow passengers would have also witnessed and interacted with the men when they were at leisure. Wes Woodward in particular appears to have been an object of admiration for his talent and gentility.

Contemporary promotional illustration of the Second-Class Library on both Olympic and Titanic, by Harland & Wolff.


A Second-Class passenger named Kate Buss, who was traveling from England to California to meet her fiance, kept a journal while on board, in which she called other individuals by little nicknames.

And thus, throughout her entries on Titanic, the ever-genial Wes Woodward was called "Cello Man."

"The Cello Man is a favourite of mine. Every time he finishes a piece he looks at me and we smile...

Saw Doctor just after dinner and reminded him of his promise to ask our Cello Man to play a solo. Says he would if I'd go to Kentucky... too late to arrange, so going to ask for it tomorrow. Cello Man quite nice. Very superior bandsman, and he always smiles his parting to us...

I couldn't get near to ask our Cello Man for a solo... he is quite gentlemanly. He agreed [to a solo] and we chatted.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

Shortly after the iceberg strike, Second-Class passenger Lawrence Beesley witnessed an intent Wes Woodward rushing to the upper decks.

I saw a bandsman—the 'cellist—come round the vestibule corner from the staircase entrance and run down the now deserted starboard deck, his 'cello trailing behind him, the spike dragging along the floor. This must have been about 12.40 A.M. I suppose the band must have begun to play soon after this and gone on until after 2 A.M. Many brave things were done that night, but none more brave than by those few men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea and the sea rose higher and higher to where they stood...

Excerpt from "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley.

Not everyone saw it this way.

An unnamed Third-Class steward reported to the publication 'Western Daily Mercury' that "as the musicians ran after their instruments they were laughed at by several members of the crew who did not realize how serious matters were."

A tribute to the musicians of the RMS Titanic. Originally published by the Amalgamated Musicians Union.


Wes Woodward and his seven bandmates played, brave and tireless, throughout the sinking.

None survived.

Titanic's musicians were immediate lauded as heroes for their dutiful stoicism in the face of death. Among written memorials to Wes Woodward, the periodical Eastbourne Gazette mused, "To his relations and friends, and to all who knew him, grief at this young musician's death must ever be tinged with a glow of pride at the manner of it."

...A young man of an extremely agreeable and modest bearing, amiable, good-natured, of a sunny disposition, and an easy, equable temper that secured him many friends... his cello playing was always marked by refinement and musicianship; on several occasion he exhibited brilliant qualities as a solo excentant; but he excelled rather as an orchestral player than as a soloist. His orchestral playing was uniformly sound, steady and reliable; while these same invaluable qualities, conjoined with much natural taste and a cultured style, enable him to appear to utmost advantage in chamber music.

The body of John Wesley Woodward was never recovered.


Turner, Steve. "The Band That Played On." Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2011.

Beesley, Lawrence. "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic." Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912. Rpt. by Mariner Books, 2000.

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“I Love This Life”: Cellist Roger Bricoux

"I Love This Life": Cellist Roger Bricoux

Roger Bricoux was an exceptional cellist. He had been educated at the famed Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna in Italy for three years, and in that time was awarded for his talents. Roger then moved on to Le Conservatoire de Paris.

All of that, and he was just 20 years old.

Roger Bricoux.


Roger hailed from an artistic family. His father Leon was an acclaimed horn player who, in 1883, had secured First Horn in the resident band that played at the casino in Monte Carlo. Leon's father and uncle were both artists as well.

So Roger was raised there, in glamorous Monaco. He was Leon's third of four sons, but the first to survive. In fact, Roger's mother was three months pregnant with Roger when his older brother had suddenly died. Roger's younger brother, who was nicknamed Lolo, also survived childhood.

By all accounts, young Roger was extraordinarily close with his family, which we can see in his surviving letters to both his parents and Lolo.

Having completed his studies in Paris in 1910, Roger evidently came to the attention of C.W. & F.N. Black, a company that booked talent for various organizations. He made his way to Leeds, England, to work in the Grand Central Hotel orchestra.

Roger arrived in England ready to hit the ground running, although he knew little to no English. It was reported that he was jovial and "possessed many friends among the musicians of Leeds," and he was described as a "handsome young fellow, although his gait was somewhat married by a limp, the result of an injury due to a motor bicycle accident."

Roger took to learning English very quickly, and attended to his job. Not much is discoverable, however, in the way of details about Roger's stint in Leeds, although his overall schedule can be inferred from those of other contracted hotel musicians. He would have had to perform in at least two sessions per day, and report to a variety of special events as necessary. It was a life of late nights and low pay.

Roger was keen to prove himself self-sufficient to his father, who knew the lifestyle all too well. It was also point of pride in particular for Roger, that he did not have to offer music lessons to pay his way through life.

It's also reasonable to assume that he explored the area and traveled during his down-time. Roger wrote with excitement to Lolo about making a visit to London for his 18th birthday.


Dear Lolo,

Father wrote to tell me that you're coming to London. I'd like to take the opportunity to tell you that if you want to come to see me that would give me such pleasure that I will put you up, feed you, and pay for your journey to London and back so it would cost you nothing apart from the effort but I think you know you'll have some fun too.

As cited in © "The Band that Played On" by Steve Turner.

Once his contract in Leeds was up, Roger moved to Lille, France, and lined up some gigs, particularly at bars with bohemian vibes.

On December 30, 1911, he wrote home to his beloved parents from his lodging in Lille.

My Dear Parents,

As it is New Year I am writing to you as I have done in previous years to wish you a good and happy year, good health and as few cares as possible because I know you have some but believe me when I say that I do not have any. You would be right to say, “You’ll see when you earn your living” and I do see and it’s hard. But it seems to me that I m unburdening myself of a huge weight because I love you very much. I have many faults perhaps but don’t think that I do not think about you often.

As cited in © "The Band that Played On" by Steve Turner.

It turns out that Roger had been back in touch with C.W. & F.N. Black, and shortly thereafter was offered a trial period as a ship’s musician. Uncharacteristically, Roger didn’t write his parents to inform them until he was already on board. When he did, he said he left Lille to return to England, and received the contract.

Roger played on Carpathia—the ship that was destined to rescue Titanic survivors—with a pianist named Theodore Brailey, who he would also work with on Titanic.

Roger wrote excitedly to his parents from Gibraltar on March 18 about his newest assignment. And in that same letter, he divulged his uncertainty about his personal life.

I love this life but I would happily be with you. As for getting married, I will never marry unless it’s to a girl with money because my tastes… I only want to “love in silk” or at least “a comfortable home,” not living in attics with the fear of not eating the next day. Ambition?  Perhaps. And why not? Something tells me that it is necessary if one is to succeed.

As cited in © "The Band that Played On" by Steve Turner.

Roger may not have planned to get married, but rumor is that he may have inadvertently had a child.

On March 5, 1912, a domestic servant named Adelaide, who was 18 years old and residing in Staffordshire, had given birth to a daughter whose father was conveniently left off of her birth certificate.

The father, Adelaide told her family, was a cellist who was about to set sail on the Titanic.

Roger did not mention anything even alluding to Adelaide in his letters to his family, although he did mention some “bad behavior” in passing… but then, as we know, he was extremely close with them and appears to have been very forthcoming about his circumstances.

For what it’s worth, Adelaide’s daughter did bear a strong resemblance to Roger as she grew up.

Regardless, Roger met up with again the pianist Brailey on April 2, 1912, in advance of Titanic's departure. This is also the day that he met Wallace Hartley, his bandmaster, for the first time.

Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley.


All the members of the Titanic orchestra boarded as Second-Class passengers, with a universal ticket number of 250654 issued to each of them.

After being acquainted, or in some cases, reunited, the musicians would have reviewed their placements as assigned by bandmaster Wallace Hartley.

The two units had different repertoires, though all eight men would have been in possession of the White Star music book, which contained 352 pieces they were obligated to know by heart. Every First-Class passenger was also provided a copy of the book, so if someone requested a tune--almost any tune--they had to be able to play it.

Despite this, we know very little about what selections the two units actually made during the voyage. Eyewitness accounts attest to classical, of course, but also to songs that were popular in America and the United Kingdom.

Ragtime was mentioned often, as well as waltzes, fox trots, operatic pieces, and show tunes. Ragtime, in particular, was a bold choice, as it was considered salacious.

Roger played in the cello-violin-piano trio that played in the B Deck Reception Area, lending a cosmopolitan ambience to the A La Carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien; it consisted of himself, Mr. Brailey, and violinist George Krins.

Despite these official designations, there are multiple reports of a quartet in both the First and Second Classes, which was apparently led by an additional and very lively violinist who loved to play a good "Scotch tune." Some speculate that this impromptu bandleader was 21-year-old Scotsman Jock Hume.

Cafe Parisien on R.M.S. Titanic, in which vicinity Roger's trio would have played. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


No member of the orchestra survived the sinking.

They are renowned and immortalized in (what is understood to have been) their final act of valor: playing "Nearer, My God, to Thee" on the boat deck until--as most accounts have it--the water reached their knees.

Titanic's orchestra, as published by the Amalgamated Musicians Union in 1912. Roger's photo is in the upper right corner.


Corpses of three of the eight band members were recovered by the Mackay-Bennett.

Roger's was not among them.

The families of the five lost members were uniquely agonized. They could not bury their sons. They were forever left with questions about their boys' final moments, what exactly had happened to each of them after the last note was played.

Leon Bricoux wrote to C.W. & F.N. Black hoping to ascertain any possible details about Roger. The company wrote back that, sadly, Roger's body had not been recovered.

They went on, stating that if it were to be recovered, Leon would be required to pay 500 francs for an embalming in New York City. His son's remains would be then be shipped back, of course, but only to Liverpool or Southampton. Leon would have to find his own way to England, and then would have to transport the corpse back to France out-of-pocket.

Along with the letter, Leon found a postal order paid to the amount of 19 shillings.

It was Roger's pay for his five fated days on Titanic.

In 1914, France called its sons up to serve in World War I. When Roger Bricoux didn't respond, he was labeled as a deserter.

He would not be considered officially deceased by the French government until 2000.


Turner, Steve. "The Band That Played On." Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2011.

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“It’s a CQD, Old Man”: Distress Signals

"It's a CQD, Old Man": Distress Signals

It's been my experience that those who aren't obsessed feel like Titanic sank passively, in spite of logically understanding that they were, of course, calling for help.

Titanic, like any vessel, was equipped with emergency gear. According to the report issued following the sinking, Titanic carried 36 distress rockets. Second-Class passenger Lawrence Beesley wrote of them in his account of the sinking.

"Up it went, higher and higher, with a sea of faces upturned to watch it, and then an explosion that seemed to split the silent night in two, and a shower of stars sank slowly down and went out one by one. And with a gasping sigh one word escaped the lips of the crowd: 'Rockets!'"

Except from "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley.

Rockets meant disaster. As one man testified: "A ship isn't going to fire rockets at sea for nothing." The passengers waiting for lifeboats began to panic.

Although, just for fun, here's Lightoller correcting the British Inquiry (and us).

INQUIRY: Now, then, about signals from your boat. You have rockets on board, have you not? Were they fired?
LIGHTOLLER: You quite understand they are termed rockets, but they are actually distress signals; they do not leave a trail of fire.
INQUIRY: Distress signals?
LIGHTOLLER: Yes. I just mention that, not to confuse them with the old rockets, which leave a trail of fire.

Whatever, Lights.

The color of these DISTRESS SIGNALS is sometimes debated--most say white, some say multicolors. I think the latter is probably just a mis-perception from the falling starburst.

Fourth Officer Boxhall set off the distress signals, at intervals of a few minutes each, next to Lifeboat 1 on the starboard side. He said he didn't count how many--most historians accept eight to ten, maybe a dozen. Fifth Officer Lowe said he was "nearly deafened by them" and though he didn't know at the time who was watching alongside him, he was standing next to White Star Chairman Bruce Ismay.

Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, who fired Titanic's distress signals.


No one answered the distress signals. But someone saw them.

James Gibson, apprentice on the Californian, testified to the following.

 I then got the binoculars and had just got them focused on the vessel when I observed a white flash apparently on her deck, followed by a faint streak towards the sky which then burst into white stars.

Yes. There was a ship within miles of Titanic--so close that Captain Smith ordered some lifeboats to row for its lights. And it did nothing.

The Californian should and one day might be its own post, but suffice it to say that everything from hypothetical cold-air mirages to the Californian's passive, overly cautious captain prevented it from rescuing Titanic.

The ships each used Morse lights to try to communicate with each other as the sinking progressed, but results on each end were unclear. The captain's reaction to the aforementioned distress signals was that they were probably frivolous "company signals," and to continue trying to reach the ship with the Morse lights. Because of the aforementioned conditions, each message flickered out by one, appeared un-replied to by the other.

But one rescue component is absent from the Californian's efforts to reach Titanic as she sank: the wireless.

And that was because a) the Californian's captain never ordered that it reach out to the mysterious "large liner" via wireless and b) the wireless operator, Cyril Evans, TURNED HIS FREAKING RADIO OFF and went to bed only minutes before Titanic struck the iceberg.

And yet, the Californian crew was aware Titanic was nearby, because earlier in the night (pre-iceberg), the captain had ordered Evans to send a warning to Titanic, once the Californian itself was stopped by ice for the night.

So Evans did send that warning, his second to Titanic over the course of the evening. But he sent it rather unprofessionally, using language that was reserved for casual chats between operators. Meanwhile, the Senior Marconi Operator on Titanic, Jack Phillips, was overtired and working through an enormous backlog of messages that all had to be sent now that the ship was in range of Newfoundland.

Because of this, Evans was "famously rebuked" by Phillips--a moment that I consider to be chronically misrepresented in a sensationalist attempt to assign blame. But I digress.

So after Jack told Cyril to stop interrupting his work, he just listened in on Titanic's transmissions until about 11:25pm. And then he went to sleep until approximately 3:30 a.m.

Titanic, meanwhile, had struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m.

Junior Marconi Operator Harold Bride, circa 1912.


Jack and Junior Marconi Operator Harold Bride were desperately calling to any ship in proverbial earshot, using the universal distress call "CQD", as well as "SOS". The latter, which was brand new and is so familiar to us today, was not first used by Titanic, despite many rumors. Harold Bride did, however, advised Jack Phillips to use it, joking that it might be their only opportunity to use the newfangled call.

The ships that received and replied to the distress signals included Titanic's sister, Olympic, the Mount Temple, the Frankfurt, the Baltic, the Asian, the Celtic, the Caronia, the Virginian, the Cincinnati, and, of course, the Carpathia.

Illustration of Titanic's wireless and the ships that responded. Originally published on April 17, 1912. Image courtesy of The Atlantic, from The Day Books of Chicago.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (published prior to 1923)

The following are a mere selection of the distress messages sent by Jack Phillips, assisted by Harold Bride. Even in clipped Morse, you can feel the mounting desperation and frustration. As one article recently put it, "It was like trying to organize a rescue by Twitter."

12:17 a.m. CQD CQD SOS Titanic Position 41.44 N 50.24 W. Require immediate assistance. Come at once. We struck an iceberg. Sinking

12:20 a.m. Come at once. We have struck a berg. It's a CQD, old man. Position 41.46 N 50.14 W

12:26 a.m. Yes, come quick!

12:40 a.m. SOS Titanic sinking by the head. We are about all down. Sinking. . .

1:10 a.m. We are in collision with berg. Sinking Head down. 41.46 N. 50.14 W. Come soon as possible

1:10 a.m. Captain says, “Get your boats ready. What is your position?”

1:27 a.m., when Olympic asked, "Are you steering southerly to meet us?" We are putting the women off in the boats

1:30 a.m. We are putting passengers off in small boats

1:30 a.m. Women and children in boats, can not last much longer

1:35 a.m Engine room getting flooded

1:45 a.m. Come as quickly as possible old man: our engine-room is filling up to the boilers

1:50 a.m., when Frankfurt asked, "What is the matter with u?" You are a fool, stdbi - stdbi - stdbi and keep out

Sometime between 2:15 a.m. and 2:20 a.m., this last message is caught SOS SOS CQD CQD Titanic. We are sinking fast. Passengers are being put into boats. Titanic

© Caption.

Calls from Titanic were crackled and broken as power was diminished and inevitably lost, but Phillips kept at it. Phillips and Bride remained at their posts until water was flooding the wheelhouse nearby--yes, the last possible second, and well after Captain Smith had ordered them to abandon their posts.

Distress signal to S.S. Birma.


Even when the two Marconi operators knew--better than anyone else--that there was NO hope of a ship reaching Titanic in time, it was reported by a station officer that there was "never a tremor" in Phillips' Morse transmissions as Titanic went down.

Harold Bride survived the sinking. Jack Phillips did not.

Jack Phillips, Senior Marconi Operator on Titanic.


It was the sudden silence of Titanic's wireless radio that clued in New York Times editor Carr Van Anda that something was gravely wrong. While other papers hedged, the New York Times headline on April 15, 1912, announced what no one wanted to: Titanic was gone.

New York Times dated April 15, 1912.


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“We Thought He Would Fiddle Himself Into Fame”: Violinist John Law Hume

"We Thought He Would Fiddle Himself Into Fame": Violinist John Law Hume

John Law Hume, who went by "Jock," was one of Titanic's violinists, and was from Dumfries, Scotland. He'd been playing on board ships since he was only 15, and saw Titanic as an opportunity to exercise his talents for a future in concert-playing.

Jock's stepmother apparently asked him not to travel on Titanic, having had nightmares that tragedy would befall him. He ignored her, because he needed extra money; he was getting married to his sweetheart Mary Costin in just a few weeks.

Titanic's orchestra. Jock Hume is pictured in the lower left corner.


Jock was by all accounts a merry and charming man. He was described by a former band-mate, Louis Cross, as "the life of every ship he ever played on and beloved of every one from cabin boys to captains."

He'd been a bright student with innate aptitude for the violin--a fact he was no doubt delighted by, given that his father liked to spin family mythologies about forebears being great Scottish composers and instrumentalists. Louis Cross also recalled that Jock boasted that his family had been full of "minstrels" in days long past.

He studied a great deal, although he could pick up without trouble difficult compositions that would have taken others long to learn.

© As cited in "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner. 2011.

An unnamed childhood friend described Jock as "a happy-faced lad" and spoke to the great esteem felt for him and his musical talents.

No one was a greater favourite at school... In the old days we have heard him, in the old Shakespeare Street Theatre, playing till the curtain should rise on many a mimic tragedy. We thought he would fiddle himself into fame.

© As cited in "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner. 2011.

Jock appears to have preferred moving about between tables when playing a saloon, and loved to engage with people--even having a bit of fun with uppity passengers.

For instance, according to Louis Cross, a lady was vexing Jock by being a right know-it-all. After giving Jock a very tiresome time, she requested a particularly intricate piece of classical music. Jock smiled, whispered to his band-mates and then they played--so beautifully, that the woman made the effort to thank them afterwards for accomplishing such a fabulously difficult classical number.

Except that it was actually ragtime, played super-slow.

Jock reported to Titanic with two violins in hand, as he was testing them to see which suited him best.

He was assigned to the five-man band led by Wallace Hartley, and which played during various occasions throughout the ship.

The Notoriously Unlucky Lucky Stewardess Violet Jessop wrote in her memoirs of Jock's exuberant performance on the evening of April 14, 1912. The two had known each other from their time on Titanic's elder sister, Olympic.

"On that Sunday evening, the music was at its gayest, led by young Jock the first violin... he laughingly called out to me in his rich Scotch accent, that he was about to give them a 'real tune, a Scotch tune, to finish up with.'"

From the memoirs of Stewardess Violet Jessop. © As cited in "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner. 2011.

This was characteristically Jock, as far as any testimony can support. It was well-known that he loved to imbue otherwise staid pieces with some Scottish flair, and loved to play jigs.

Accounts such as Violet's have led to some speculation that Jock, not Wallace, was Titanic's bandleader, but this is misleading. Violet's memory, as well as others, was of a quartet. It's likely, though unable to be confirmed, that Jock casually joined up with the restaurant trio during his downtime from the five-piece band led by Wallace Hartley.

After the collision with the iceberg, Violet somehow bumped into Jock as he ran up the stairs.

I ran into Jock, the bandleader and his crowd with their instruments. 'Funny, they must be going to play,' though I, and at this late hour! Jock smiled in passing, looking rather pale for him, remarking, 'Just going to give them a tune to cheer things up a bit,' and passed on.

From the memoirs of Stewardess Violet Jessop. © As cited in "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner. 2011.

Jock Hume was 21 years old when he died alongside his seven band-mates in the sinking of Titanic.

His corpse was one of only three orchestra members to be recovered by the Mackay-Bennett, on a day full of rain and fog.

Jock had had nothing personal on him, such as items bearing his initials, that would have indicated his identity. So a photo was taken of him in his coffin and was sent out to the White Star offices for identification.

Age, about 28 Hair, Light curly; clean shaven - Marks, None

CLOTHING - Light rain coat; uniform jacket with green facing and vest; purple muffler.

EFFECTS - Cigarette case; silver watch; empty purse; knife with carved pearl handle; mute; brass button with "African Royal Mail"; English lever watch.

Mere weeks after the sinking, Jock's father Andrew Hume received a bill from C.W. & F.N. Black, the Liverpool firm that employed musicians for shipwork, demanding compensation for Jock's uniform. Jock had, it turned out, had it cleaned and altered shortly before Titanic's departure.

[April 30, 1912]

Dear Sir,

We shall be obliged if you will remit to us the sum of 5s-4d, which is owing to us as per enclosed statement. We shall also be obliged if you will settle the enclosed uniform account.

Yours faithfully,

C.W. and F.N. Black

Andrew was so livid about the request that he forwarded it to the Amalgamated Musicians' Union. They published it with a single line of commentary from the editor: "Comment would be superfluous!"

But there was more outrage on Andrew Hume's horizon.

As it turned out, Jock had died never knowing that his fiancee, Mary Costin, was pregnant. Jock's family refused to accept the baby for years thereafter, even fighting Mary's claim in court during her pregnancy. They lost.

In turn, Mary, evidently wanting to make her daughter's paternity perfectly clear, named her daughter Johnann Law Hume.

Then, in 2015, Jock Hume re-entered the news when his grandson, Christopher Ward, discovered that Jock had another secret: that while in the Caribbean, young Jock had fathered a son with a Jamaican barmaid named Ethel. She had given birth in 1911.

Ward learned of it because in researching his genealogy, he was given a document that listed Mary and Ethel, across the world from one another, having both filed for compensation for their fatherless babies.


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“Nearer, My God, to Thee”: Bandmaster Wallace Hartley

"Nearer, My God, To Thee": Bandmaster Wallace Hartley

Wallace Hartley is one of Titanic's famed heroes: the bandleader who played until he was swallowed by the sea, along with his seven-man orchestra. It was and still is considered "one of the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea."

Bandmaster Wallace Hartley.


Wallace Hartley was from Lancashire, England, and was engaged to be married to Maria Robinson when he was asked to transfer from Cunard's Mauretania to be Titanic's bandmaster for her maiden voyage.

Wallace was described by his friend, Thomas Hyde, as "a very nice lad" who was "incapable of anything mean," despite being "a bit what you might call 'roughish.'"

We also know that Wallace hated the 9-to-5 life, because he took an job as a bank clerk under pressure from his father, who didn't want him to pursue a musician's lifestyle for fear of financial insecurity. Wallace found work in a mundane office "irksome".

Wallace was an outstanding musician, though his fellow classmate didn't recall him being a prodigy when they started violin together at school around age 12. But the headmaster's son wrote in 1958 of Wallace having had notable talent from the start... and some really cool toys.

He was one of my heroes, for I knew from the talk of my elders that he was already a musician of repute, but more definitely because he possessed a bicycle.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

So in 1912, Wallace signed on to Titanic.

Having only just proposed Maria, rumor is that Hartley was reticent to leave his fiancee, but ultimately accepted the position because a) repairs to the Mauretania had recently left him without work for about two months and b) he could make more connections for future gigs.

Wallace wrote what was fated to be his last letter home on April 11, 1912, and sent it off to be taken ashore at Queenstown before Titanic sped for open sea.

This is a fine ship and there ought to be plenty of money around. We have a fine band and the boys seem very nice. I miss coming home very much and it would have been nice to have seen you all, if only for an hour or two, but I could not manage it. Shall probably arrive home on the Sunday morning.

All love,


As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

A lesser-known fact is that Titanic's band was actually split into two independently functioning units: Wallace's, which played at dinners and Sunday services, and a second three-man, violin-cello-piano unit that stationed themselves in the room outside the entrance to the The Restaurant and Cafe Parisien.

It's most often reported that it was Wallace who roused his fellow musicians to go to the First Class Lounge and play after Titanic struck the iceberg, although there's speculation that he did so under the instruction of Chief Purser Hugh McElroy or even Captain Smith.

Multiple witnesses attested to them playing light, happy tunes, as well as ragtime. But at the end, Wallace tapped at his violin and began to lead the band in what would become one of the most contested piece of trivia in Titanic lore: The Last Song.

Harold Bride, the Junior Marconi Operator, really threw the wrench in this, because he testified that he heard "Autumn".

From what is known about Bride, though, he had no aptitude for music. He had also been working at the wireless all night, and may have had difficulty with his memory following his survival in the water.

However wrong he was about the song, though, his testimony is no less moving.

...I guess all the band went down. They were playing 'Autumn' then…The way the band kept playing was a noble thing. I heard it while still we were working wireless, when there was a ragtime tune for us, and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing 'Autumn.' How they ever did I cannot imagine.

Harold Bride's statement to the New York Times, as reported in the April 19, 1912, issue. As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

Most witnesses, however, report that the band played the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee".

This makes sense. It was the official hymn played graveside for every member of the Musicians Union.

It was also one of Wallace's favorites--he even introduced it to his congregation as a musician back home. Moreover, a band-mate of Wallace's from Mauretania reported to the Daily Sketch that years before, he asked Wallace how he would conduct himself if he were on the deck of a sinking ship. Wallace told him that he'd get his orchestra together and play either "O God, Our Help In Ages Past" or "Nearer, My God, to Thee."

The eight men of the Titanic orchestra played for over an hour, some wearing lifebelts. Eyewitness reports attest to the water climbing from their ankles to their knees.

Still, they played on.

As things became more grave, Wallace reassembled the orchestra on the boat deck, near the entrance to the Grand Staircase. Only minutes before the ship split, at around 2:10 a.m., the entire band was washed away.

Wallace Hartley was 33 years old.

His body was recovered by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett, and was list as follows.


"CLOTHING - Uniform (green facing); brown overcoat; black boots; green socks.

EFFECTS - Gold fountain pen, "W.H.H."; diamond solitaire ring; silver cigarette case; letters; silver match box, marked "W.H.H., from Collingson's staff. Leeds"; telegram to Hotley, Bandmaster "Titanic"; nickel watch; gold chain; gold cigar holder; stud; scissors; 16s; 16 cents; coins.


Wallace's body was returned to his hometown in May 1912, and his funeral was held in the same church where he had once been a choirboy.

Wallace's eulogy was delivered by Thomas Worthington, a preacher who was a family friend of the Hartleys.

The unexpected happened; the unthinkable occurred. The ship that everyone thought could not sink is now two miles at the bottom of the Atlantic.

But our friend kept his word. The inevitable command to get the boats ready in the middle of that dark but clear Sunday night, with the subsequent order "Women and children first" found those hands, now stiff in death, gliding along the strings of that beloved violin and guiding the companion stick, producing the tune that at once became articulate and interpreted the desires of many hearts as they were lifted to heaven.. This was done until the waves claimed both him and his violin.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

The final hymn, of course, was "Nearer, My God, To Thee."

As the mourners slowly filed out, Maria came forward toward the altar. She laid down the tribute she'd brought onto the brass plaque that adorned the lid of her fiance's coffin: a floral cross made of deep red roses, tied up with a message.

"O teach me from my heart to say 'Thy will be done.'"

Upward of 1,000 people were in attendance to pay respects to Wallace, and an estimated 30,000-40,000 more people lined his funeral route.

It took over an hour for the cortege, accompanied by nine carriages, eight brass bands, and myriad representives, dignitaries, and police officers, to make its way through the streets, crowded as they were with mourners.

When they at last reached the cemetery, twelve pallbearers carried Wallace's coffin from the gates to the Hartley family sepulcher.

Still, some have blamed the band for giving passengers the wrongful impression that the situation was not as dire as it truly was. But by a number of contemporary accounts, this was essentially the point: to keep the passengers calm by playing frivolous tunes, so as not to cause alarm.

And it appeared to have worked to calm nerves that were fraught and raw. Second Officer Charles Lightoller was glad of the band's presence and their selection in the face of death. "I could hear the band playing a cheery sort of music," he said. "I don't like jazz music as a rule, but I was glad to hear it that night. I think it helped us all."

Others, such as First-Class passenger Colonel Archibald Gracie, insisted the band never played at all. Moreover, he insisted that if they had, and played "Nearer, My God, To Thee," that he would have been outraged.

I assuredly should have noticed it and regarded it as a tactless warning of immediate death to us and one likely to create a panic that our special efforts were directed towards avoiding.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

There were also dissenters to the posthumous lauds for the band, specifically because their deaths should not have occurred to begin with. Joseph Conrad, for instance, wrote with weary disdain--not for the bandmembers themselves, but for the saccharine spectacle of it all.

I, who am not a sentimentalist, think it would have been finer if the band of the Titanic had been quietly saved, instead of being drowned while playing--whatever tune they were playing, poor devils. I would rather that they had been saved to support their families... I am not consoled by the false, written-up, Drury Lane aspects of that event, which is neither drama, nor melodrama, nor tragedy, but the exposure of arrogant folly... And that's the truth. The unsentimental truth stripped of the romantic garment the press has wrapped around this most unnecessary disaster.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

Wallace Hartley's violin was returned to his bereaved fiancee.

After decades in an attic, it was painstakingly authenticated and auctioned in 2013 for $1.6 million, the most that has ever been paid for a Titanic artifact.


Turner, Steve. "The Band That Played On." Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2011.

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