BOOK REVIEW News Weekly
In the wake of the Titanic disaster
, February 4, 2012
AND THE BAND PLAYED ON:
The Titanic violinist and the glovemaker: a true story of love, loss and betrayal
by Christopher Ward
(London: Hodder and Stoughton)
Paperback: 288 pages
Reviewed by Michael E. Daniel
Almost 100 years after the ocean liner Titanic struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, interest in the disaster shows little sign of diminishing.
While countless books and articles tend to cover and review essentially the same material, Christopher Ward’s And the Band Played On analyses the tragedy from a fresh perspective, namely the fate of Jock Hume, a 21-year-old violinist who was the second youngest member of the Titanic’s orchestra, which continued playing as the ship went down.
Jock was one of the 1,500 souls who perished in the epic maritime disaster. He left behind his father, siblings and his pregnant fiancée Mary Costin, a glovemaker. The author, Christopher Ward, is the grandson of Jock and Mary, and in this book he pieces together the events preceding and following the sinking of the Titanic.
Jock, like his father Andrew Hume, was a talented violinist. From the age of 14, when he left home, he served in orchestras on a number of ships and regarded it as a coup when he was chosen to be a violinist on the Titanic’s maiden voyage.
Just before he left his hometown of Dumfries in south-west Scotland to travel to Southampton, his fiancée Mary Costin, with whom he had been co-habiting for almost 12 months, informed him that she was pregnant with his child. Overjoyed at the news, he promised to marry Mary upon his return from the United States in May.
However, it was not to be. Like his fellow-musicians aboard the Titanic, Jock dutifully remained playing on deck while the ship was sinking, so as to calm the passengers and crew, until he could no longer perform.
He subsequently perished. However, his body was one of those recovered by the cable-repair ship, the Mackay-Bennett, that was chartered by the Titanic’s owners, the White Star Line, to search for bodies. He was buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Eventually, Jock’s effects were returned to his father, Andrew Hume, who also received a bill from the music agent demanding payment for the White Star Line brass buttons and epaulettes on his lost son’s unpaid uniform! This was an incredibly insensitive action, particularly at a time when people were donating generously to the Titanic Relief Fund, established to help families of those lost in the disaster.
However, Jock’s father can hardly be described as an innocent victim. The portrait of him that emerges from Ward’s account is one of an insensitive liar and conman. Andrew Hume was harsh towards his children, particularly after their mother’s death and his remarriage.
A violinist and music teacher by profession, he also claimed that his grandfather had been a famous musician, not a labourer as is strongly suggested by the evidence.
Furthermore, he seems to have engaged in business fraud, claiming that many of the violins he sold were valuable antique instruments. In the wake of Jock’s death, he also tried fraudulently, but unsuccessfully, to claim insurance on “valuable” instruments, in the possession of his son, that went down with the Titanic.
However, Andrew’s treatment of his late son’s pregnant fiancée Mary Costin was incredibly cruel. Having hoped that his son would marry someone of a higher social station, Andrew refused to believe that Jock was the father of the subsequent child, a girl called Johnann (“Jackie”) Law Hume Costin (the author’s mother).
Initial funds sent by the Titanic Relief Fund, which were intended for the daughter, were inadvertently sent to the grandfather Andrew Hume, who pocketed them.
Justice was ultimately to prevail a couple of years later after an extraordinary sequence of events.
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Jock’s sister Kate, in order to spite her father, forged a letter from a fictitious Red Cross nurse claiming that Grace Hume (Kate’s actual sister, who was a genuine nurse), had been killed on active service in Belgium by the invading Germans.
Grace Hume, however, was actually working in Huddersfield at the time, and a court thereupon found Kate guilty of forgery.
However, the case also exposed Andrew Hume for what he was, with the result that he was forced to flee to England to salvage his musical career, being regarded with scorn by the Dumfries community.
Sadly, Mary Costin, although she subsequently found a husband for herself, did not live to an old age, and her daughter Johnann was raised by other relatives.
And the Band Played On powerfully illustrates how the Titanic tragedy did not end with the sinking of the liner, but for years afterwards continued to have an impact on the families of those who perished.
The author has based his account on extensive family lore and research. However, as he himself admits, his journey of discovery of his family’s tragic and sometimes sordid saga is not necessarily over, with many questions still remaining unanswered.
This reviewer found the book hard to put down.