As you will no doubt know, it’s the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on Sunday 15th April. 1514 people lost their lives and 710 were rescued. I was appalled to read that the lifeboats could only have taken a third of the ship’s passenger and crew capacity of 3547 people. The law at the time stated that the number of lifeboats required should be calculated on the gross register tonnage of a ship, not her passenger capacity, which beggars belief.
I was particularly interested in the story of the 21 year old Scottish violinist, John “Jock” Law Hume, who bravely played on with his orchestra as the ship sank, and I decided to see what I could find out about him. The orchestra were hired by C W and F N Black, a firm in Liverpool who provided musicians to the steamer companies. The musicians were paid £6 10s a month plus a 10s monthly uniform allowance.
John was born on 9 August 1890 at 5 Nith Place, Dumfries. His birth certificate notes his father as Andrew Hume, musician, and his mother as Grace Hume, maiden surname Law. It also notes that John’s parents were married in July 1887 in Glasgow. Andrew registered his son’s birth in Dumfries on 22 August 1890.
Andrew is listed in various Census returns as a musician, music teacher and violin maker.
During further research I discovered that John was engaged to Mary Catherine Costin, a glove factory worker, before he left on his final voyage.
John’s body was recovered by the Cable Ship, the Mackay Bennett, and along with many of the others who lost their lives, he was buried at Fairview Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia on 8 May 1912. Yvonne Hume, John’s great niece told me that he was buried, unidentified, and given the grave number 193. It was on 16th July that John’s body was identified from photographs sent to ‘White Star’ by Yvonne’s great grandfather Andrew, his name was then added to the grave. This was the one and only reason that John’s body was not brought back to Scotland.
Six months after the sinking, Mary gave birth to a daughter, Johnann Hume Costin, on 18 October 1912 in Dumfries. Being a single parent with no means of support, she applied to the Titanic Relief Fund for financial assistance, but was told that she had to first prove that John was Johnann’s father. She managed to provide evidence which satisfied the board and was issued with £67 and a small weekly allowance. I wonder if John ever knew that Mary was expecting his child.
Andrew must have been suffering greatly, having lost his wife, Grace, in 1906, then John’s untimely tragic death, after which he received this staggering note from John’s employers on 30 April 1912:
We shall be obliged if you will remit 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.
C.W. & F.N. Black”
Needless to say he declined to pay, and astonishingly, it also appears that John’s wages were docked as he did not complete the journey. How mind-numbingly insensitive to a grieving family.
Andrew moved from Scotland to England in 1915 and set up a violin shop and workshop in London, where he died in 1934.
While researching for this post, I made contact with Yvonne Hume, who is John’s great niece. She has carried out extensive research on John, both here in Scotland and in Nova Scotia, and has written a book “R M S Titanic The First Violin” about John and his family. Yvonne kindly provided the photograph of John and his fellow band members aboard “The Carmania” – the last picture taken of him.
National Records of Scotland are holding an exhibition showing documents relating to some of the Scots who lost their lives, including John. The free display runs from 16 April to late May in the Dome at New Register House in Edinburgh.
I found some interesting facts about the Titanic, such as they needed 75,000lbs of fresh meat and 40,000 eggs on their provision list. You can find a lot of information at Encylopedia Titanica, including stories of the passengers and crew.
PS: I haven’t seen the film – after I found out that they had taken “artistic licence” and shown William Murdoch having committed suicide, which he didn’t, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. It then became a work of fiction, as far as I was concerned.