A riveting account of the aftermath of the Titanic’s sinking

2011-10-26 00:00

PENNED by the grandson of Jock Hume, the 21-year-old violinist in the band that kept playing as the Titanic sank, And the Band played On… tells a remarkable story of the aftermath of the Titanic’s sinking and its effect on two of the families that were left ­behind.

A factual account, embellished with fictional poetic licence, the story begins rather grimly with an account of the night the ship went down. Not for the faint-hearted, the clinical account of the way the human body subjected to icy water shuts down makes for chilling reading, no pun intended.

The story then shifts to the account of the recovery of the bodies, and the appalling way the White Star shipping company dealt with the corpses according to strict class rules. They consigned those who appeared not to be of any social standing to a shroud, a weight, a hasty prayer, and tossed them overboard. More eminent people were given coffins for the journey home for burial, while others were put on ice in the hold and frozen until they reached shore.

The White Star was not alone in their mistreatment of relatives. The company Jock Hume was contracted to the Titanic from, sent his father a bill for his uniforms and sheet music, which his outstanding wages were not enough to cover. How callous is that?

Ward also tells of the glovemaker Mary Costin and her love for Jock, which had culminated in her expecting Jock’s child when he died, and her fight to legitimise her baby daughter (the writer’s mother), and get compensation from the trust fund set up for survivors’ families. Jock’s father opposed her efforts vehemently, claiming that Jock was not the child’s father, calling her names reserved for those of loose morals.

The book also contains the curious story of Jock’s sister who created an elaborate hoax, claiming her sister had been brutally murdered and had written a farewell note after her breasts had been cut off by Germans in World War 1. Fascinating stuff.

Ward’s research is detailed and being from manifold sources, creates a valid history which will enthral those who have been captivated by the Titanic and her demise to the deep. The release of this book will also provide a good memento for those revisiting the Titanic as the centenary of her sinking comes up on April 12 next year. Well worth reading.

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