RMS Titanic: and the young Scottish violinist played on…

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 Hume (first on the left) on Carmania - last photo taken of him, by kind permission of Yvonne Hume

John Hume (first on the left) on Carmania - last photo taken of him, by kind permission of Yvonne Hume

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:

“Dear Sir:
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.
Yours faithfully,
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.

Posted in Photos | 22 Comments

Sepia Saturday – Library

The inspiration for this week’s Sepia Saturday post is “Library”.  I’m not a big borrower of books for casual reading,  but I AM a huge fan of reference libraries – the ones where you can go and look up all sorts of weird and wonderful facts.  I know, it all sounds horribly dull, but really it isn’t.  Honestly 🙂

Near to where I live, we have lots of exciting places to look up interesting stuff, the Loanhead Archives Centre is a mine of information on Midlothian ancestors, although housed in a rather uninspiring 1960’s building and now bursting to overflowing.

East Lothian Archives Centre moved at the end of March to a fabulous new building in Haddington, the John Gray Centre – very “old building meets steel and glass” and bears absolutely no comparison the their previous billet.  It was requiring modernisation and updating, shall we say 🙂  Now they are state of the art!

There is also the rather posh National Library of Scotland, which has an amazing amount of original manuscripts and obscure records…

My most-used “library” is a series of rather ordinary book cases containing very valuable, and often one-off unpublished books relating to Scottish genealogy.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the book cases because they are so ordinary that it never occurred to me to take one, however they are housed in the Dundas Search Room of New Register House in Edinburgh.  When you visit Register House, you are led through a series of search rooms, where members of the public can research their family histories and professional Scottish genealogists work.  The first room that you come to is known as the “Adam Room” on account of the fabulous Adam design.

I asked permission to lie on the newly-laid plush carpet and take a photo with my phone (and it was laughingly granted) so I did.  If you don’t ask, you don’t get, as my Granny used to say.  Yes, they all laughed at me 🙂

You can read more about the historical Adam Dome if you wish, but I warn you, if you are ever in Edinburgh and fancy tracing your family history, the ceiling will be a major distraction.  Here are a few more photos I took on my phone (the poor quality is due to me holding a cup of coffee and a slice of cake as well as the phone) during the launch of the 1911 Census – the reception was held in the Adam Dome and the staff dressed up in period costume.  Not in the least bit stuffy!

Sheila – our Blue Lady – check out all the Registers in the bookshelves, they go around the entire circular room.

Linda, Blair and Susan all out of uniform and togged up in period gear 🙂

And finally, the statue of King George III set in an alcove, which creeps me out because if you are the last to leave and the emergency lighting is on (or it is winter and there is a full moon coming through the dome) he glows in the dark.  He was found during renovations in a rather sorry state, blackened and covered in a green lichen growth.  He was sculpted in alabaster by the niece of the first Registrar General for Scotland and first placed in position in 1791.

I always say goodnight to him to keep on his good side.  Check out other Saturday Sepians’ interpretations of “Library”, and come and join in if you feel inspired, there is a new theme every week, and your photos don’t have to be sepia.


PS:  For a Scottish Library blog with a HUGE sense of humour, check out Orkney Library and Archives Blog.  I defy you not to subscribe – so funny!

Posted in Photos, Sentimental Sunday | 10 Comments

Sepia Saturday 119 – Work

This week’s Sepia Saturday theme is Work.  Whatever interpretation of work you wish to write about.  Here’s mine…

I previously posted some photos of Douglas and Elsie glammed-up (I still haven’t got over the black lace Madonna-style evening gloves) for various nights out, and I think I have identified what one of the occasions may have been.  I found this photo of Douglas (front row, 4th from left) and a group of similarly professional-looking gentlemen

and typed on the back is “BMC Conference 21/23 Feb 1967”.  Ah!  Light bulb moment – BMC stands for British Motor Corporation, and Douglas was managing a car dealership at the time.  BMC produced a wide range of cars including Austin, Morris, MG and Austin-Healey, which explains why I have this in my possession

and I can just imagine Elsie powdering her nose with Douglas’s freebie promotional products provided by MG.  Although, I’d rather I had this

AND she used the entire powder compact and didn’t replaced it with a refill.  Perhaps another new one came along?

Douglas, on the other hand, was also the recipient of some corporate gifts

I only found one of these in Elsie’s sewing box, and I’m sure Douglas was originally  presented with two cufflinks, but given the battered and abused state of her sewing box, I’m not surprised that only one could be found and was saved in case the other one turned up.   Here’s a picture of a Riley Elf – Elsie had one, and so did her sister, Jan.

Due to the blurring in this picture, I suspect Jan was driving.  She used to meet up with her “ladies” for lunch in Dairsie several times a week, and a few sherries were consumed before heading for home.  Jan never paid extra for the option of a radio in her car, as she enjoyed singing loudly while driving, and would happily sing while “…overtaking the  pantechnicons…”   It’s a wonder that she lived as long as she did 🙂

Now, Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to Work we go – check out what the other Sepia Saturday posters came up with on the subject 🙂


Posted in Photos, Sepia Saturday | 11 Comments

Seeking relatives of a Canadian pilot killed in WWII crash – Part 2

As per my last post, I’m still appealing for help in tracing living relatives of Flt Lt Donald Banbury Douglas, a young Canadian airman who died in a plane crash while on a test flight in Banffshire, Scotland in 1945.  Craig Anderson is planning to erect a memorial to Donald and the Scottish leading aircraftman who was also in the plane, G P Robbins, and would like to make contact with their relatives.  Having found a collection of documents and photos relating to Donald on the Veterans Affairs Canada website, I emailed them to ask permission to post a picture of him.

I then received several emails and documents from the archivist at the High School that Donald attended in Toronto. Forty young men from the same school died in WWII and the school commemorates them in a Memorial Book.  (Photo reproduced from the Memorial Book of Lawrence Park Collegiate in Toronto, Ontario with kind permission of R Whitehouse).  Capt Whitehouse was able to tell me that Donald was the only son in the family, and Craig had information to say that Donald’s mum, Lela Douglas, maiden surname Banbury, was part of the Knowles family from Aurora, Ontario.  I wonder if Donald had any sisters?

I appealed to the genealogy blogging community and my Facebook and Twitter followers to spread the word about this appeal (thanks, guys, please keep going!) and a comment was posted by Lorraine on Part 1, pointing me in the direction of Canada 411, a directory site.  It shows that there are 5 Knowles families in Aurora, and a LOT of Douglas families in Edmonton, so it will be more efficient to contact the Knowles families first.

Adrian left a comment saying “there is only six degrees of separation between everyone on the planet so if lots of people share this request on their Facebook page, the relatives will be found”.

Thank you, and please share using your preferred method of social media – there’s a nice selection of buttons below!


On the Veterans Affairs Canada website, you can view documents about the accident and very moving correspondence to and from Donald’s father, Walter Douglas.  These documents can be accessed in person – File RG24 (War Dead) Volume 27404,  in Ottawa, Canada, with the exception of the photo above.

Posted in Photos | 12 Comments

Canadian pilot killed in WWII crash – appeal for genealogy help please

Some of you will remember that I posted this time last year about Granny’s younger  brother, James, who was in the RAF and went missing during WWII.  Last week I was reading the Scottish Military Research Group’s blog post about an appeal for information on the two airmen (one Scot and one Canadian) killed in a WWII plane crash in Banff.

This is a pretty long post, and probably only relevant to those who live in, or have relatives in Aurora, Ontario, or have a particular interest in WWII RAF airmen, but please bear with me if you do 🙂  I know how generous the genealogy blogging community is, and I have seen what great results others have had, so I thought this was worth a go.

For the past three years, Craig Anderson has been making plans to erect a memorial to these two airmen at the crash site, and he would like to make contact with their relatives before the unveiling ceremony, but he has run into difficulty with tracing relatives in Canada.  He wrote to the “Edmonton Journal” asking for help in tracing Donald’s living relatives.  Craig’s letter reads

“For the last three years, I have been researching a Second World War crash site in Banff, Scotland, where an RCAF pilot lost his life. The pilot was Donald Banbury Douglas, of Belleville, Ont. He was the only son of Walter and Lela Douglas (maiden name Banbury), who moved to Belleville from Edmonton prior to the war. Walter Douglas worked on the railway.

Later this year, I plan to place a memorial stone at the crash site and hold a short service in honour of this pilot. I am trying to contact any relatives of the family and would appreciate any assistance readers can offer.

Donald Douglas was a hero who had almost finished his tour of duty when this un-fortunate accident occurred. It is my duty to tell his story and finally build a memorial for future generations to remember him.”

Having fairly recently discovered that Granny had a brother I knew nothing of, and that, as a young newly-married man, his plane had been lost without trace in February 1941, I was very moved to read about Craig’s endeavours to keep the memory of these other two young men alive.  He feels strongly that they should be remembered, and I felt compelled to offer to help Craig if I could.

Now, I can do the genealogy research on the Scottish leading aircraftman – Gerard Patrick Robbins (born in 1912 in Dundee, the son of Patrick Robbins and Isabella McGinnis or Martin), but Craig needs help with the Canadian research on Donald’s relatives.    I found four trees on Ancestry which show Donald’s parents, although none mention Donald directly.  I messaged all four tree owners last Wednesday (22nd March), but I’ve not had any responses yet.  Fingers crossed!

I found several documents and photos relating to Donald on the Veterans Affairs Canada great website, but as it’s a weekend, I haven’t had a reply to my request for permission to share their photo of him with you.  Go and have a look – he’s very dashing 🙂

Craig had contact on Thursday from relatives of Donald, but they had only known of him when he was young.  They pointed him in the direction of Aurora near Toronto for Donald’s mum’s side of the family.  She came from the Knowles family who were prominent in the town.

If you think you may be related to Donald, or can help Craig by spreading the word that he is on the look out for Donald’s living relations, I’d be really grateful if you would share this post.

All heroes deserve to be remembered 🙂

Thank you, if you made it to the bottom of this long post – you can contact Craig by leaving a wee message as a comment – he says he’s away this weekend, so I don’t have his permission to publicly post his email address (but it’s published in the text of his letter to the Edmonton Journal above, just remove the extra hyphen).

I’ll do a Part Two, as and when we get more details, and update you on my research on the fitter, Gerard Robbins, but I won’t post any details relating to people who are still living without their written permission.  Please share and make sure that Donald and Gerard are appropriately remembered, and hope that their relatives will find out about Craig’s mission.

Read Part 2 for a progress report.


Posted in Photos | 5 Comments

Sepia Saturday 118 – Going Out – no bagpipes please!

This week’s theme for Sepia Saturday is “going out”, as suggested by Liz Stratton of Attics and Old Lace.  I could have posted many photos of the family on outings to the playground, picnics, or fishing trips, but I chose a few showing my maternal grandparents, Douglas and Elsie (of the road trip to Monaco) going out to dinner.  Please feel free to come along!

Here they are at a social event in 1950 – they’re the couple on the left.  I don’t know who their friends are but they were obviously close, and I love the lady’s halter neck dress.  On close inspection, I wonder if the man is Elsie’s younger brother, Bill, who was a surgeon and emigrated from Scotland to the US.  I don’t remember ever meeting him.  His sisters called him “Wee Billy B” as he was the baby of the family 🙂

And again at a Christmas Bash in December 1951 – Elsie’s sister, Jan, is the lady on the left sporting a rather nautical-looking hat similar to the man in the middle.  I wonder what that was about?  If you look closely behind the glamorous lady holding a glass of wine, there is someone loitering at the door with a shopping bag.  It’s not Santa, then.

Grub’s up!  We’re waiting on the dessert course and Elsie is showing great interest in something on the table.  Where on earth did she get those black lacy gloves?  There’s a poster pinned to the curtains – maybe it was advertising the entertainment for the evening?

Douglas looks rather proprietorial with his hands clasped in front of him.  Some of the boys at the back look very young.  Maybe it was a “works do”?  Douglas started off as a mechanic and ending up running a motor dealership in Dunfermline, so maybe the youngsters were apprentice mechanics.

A more recent shot – I reckon from the 1980’s.  Elsie is in red with Douglas’s brother, Norman, on her right.  The brothers were spread out over the UK, but met up regularly.  It must have been cold outside – look at the condensation on the windows.  Do you think Douglas is trying to stick his fingers in his ears as the piper goes past?  🙂

Go out with the other Sepia Saturday contributors and have fun!

Before we pack up and get in the taxi, Jen at Climbing My Family Tree says that Google Friend Connect no longer works with WordPress blogs, so if you follow me using Friend Connect, you’ll need to add me again using another method.


Posted in Photos, Sepia Saturday | 22 Comments

Sepia Saturday 116 – Facial Hair – no, not mine

The theme for this week’s Sepia Saturday post is Facial Hair.  I’m not a big fan of the old Face Fungus – a bit of designer stubble is OK, but a man sporting the full “burst mattress” look  is likely to see me heading for the hills.  At speed.

I couldn’t find any photos of beards in Great Granny’s collection, however there were a couple of moustaches.  First of all, I present Great Granny and her husband (James Stewart) who has quite a full “mouser”.

And to follow, we have their son, also James Stewart.

James was my see-sawing Granny‘s brother  – I had no idea that she had two brothers, I had only ever heard talk of one.  My auntie was helping me identify relatives in old photos, and I came to this picture of a handsome young airman and asked “do you know who this is?” and she replied “that’s my uncle who was killed in World War II”.   I did a bit of further research and was able to find out where and when he died – he and his crew were in a Wellington bomber heading for Wilmhelmshaven when their plane was lost without trace.  I’m so pleased that I found him in the photo collection and can give him his rightful place in our family tree.

Here’s an interesting item I came across

It’s a Moustache Cup – designed to prevent one’s ‘tache dangling in one’s tea and the subsequent drips and embarrassment in front of visitors 🙂

My Grandfather on my maternal side told us all sorts of dubious stories when we were kids.  This post reminds me of one tale, which said that if you were having difficulty growing a luxuriant beard, you should rub salt on your chin.  When the hair sprouts out looking for a drink, you should tie a knot in it so it can’t retreat.  Hmm….

Check out what other Sepia Saturday posters have to say on the theme of facial hair!


Posted in Great Granny's album, Photos, Sentimental Sunday | 16 Comments