We all know about the 8 musicians who continued to play their instruments as the Titanic sank, but how many of us know their stories, or even their names? Steve Turner has done the research, spoken to their descendants (where there were any), and followed the trail of monuments of these 8 heroes — and make no mistake, they were heroes — and their legacy.
Theo Brailey — William Theodore Brailey, born in Walthamstow, Essex, England, 25 October 1887, father a clairvoyant, he was a pianist on the Titanic. His father had a premonition and urged him not to go. His body was never recovered or not identified.
Roger Bricoux — Roger Marie Bricoux, cellist, born June 1st, 1891, Cosne-sur-Loire, France, the only French musician and the youngest of the musicians on the Titanic. His body was either not recovered or not identified. In 1913, he was officially declared a deserter by the French army and not registered as dead until the year 2000.
Fred Clarke — John Frederick Preston Clarke, born at Chorlton, Manchester, Lancashire, England on 28 July 1883, bass violinist. His body was recovered and buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Wallace Hartley — band leader, born Sun., June 2/1878, Colne, Lancashire. Violinist, Hartley’s body was recovered with his violin case strapped to his chest and returned (minus the violin) to Lancashire. Later it was discovered that his violin had been returned to his fiancé, Maria Robinson, who had passed it down in the family as a sentimental keepsake. In 2013, it was sold at auction for £900,000 ($1.6m).
Jock Hume — John Law Hume, violinist, born 9 August, 1890, Dumfries, Scotland. His body was recovered and buried at Fairview Cemetery, Halifax, N.S. After his death, his father received a bill from musician agents CW & FN Black requesting a payment of 5s 4d for Jock’s uniform account. One example of pettiness that followed the sinking of the Titanic.
Georges Krins — Georges Alexander Krins, violinist and bandleader of the smaller group that played outside the Café Français on the Titanic, born 18th March, 1889, Paris, France. His body was either not recovered or not identified.
Percy Taylor — born 20 March 1872 in Hackney, London, cellist. His body was either not recovered or not identified.
Wes Woodward — John Wesley Woodward, cellist, keen amateur photographer, born West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England on 11 September 1879. His body was either not recovered or not identified.
Turner has done an admirable job of tracing the histories of these brave men, their family life, religious affiliations, romantic relationships, musical background and achievements, the ships they served on, how they ended up serving together on the Titanic, and what they did the last day before she sailed. Some of this is totally factual and parts logical conjecture based on other facts. Several of the musicians had served together before and all were hired by CW & FN Black of Liverpool, musical agents for the steamship lines. Only Clarke, Krins, and Taylor had never served at sea. At the time of the sailing of the Titanic, musicians were not considered part of the ship’s crew but were working for the Blacks, and therefore insurance at their demise was something of a muddle.
There were memorial concerts performed to help the families of the musicians but sometimes a parent was not considered a dependent. Some of the musicians had very little to leave behind while one or two left a considerable sum. Some families went to court and Jock Hume’s father was taken to court by his son’s fiancé and lost the case as well as his house as he had to pay for the two violins Jock had taken on board with him on approval.
Turner also includes excerpts from the some of the sermons preached about the courage and convictions of the 8 band members and some of the more controversial arguments about the “message” from the disaster — was it God’s way of reminding man of his own limitations? — and the sobering thought that if musicians had survived it was almost certain that some, if not all, would have died in the coming war in Europe.
This is a thoroughly interesting read which, for me, has sparked in interest in learning more and watching some of the movies and documentaries with a fresh insight not only into the people but into some of the concepts I had not been aware of before. I never realized that the huge machinery below decks would have come loose from their fittings and crashed through the compartments and bulkheads — so logical when you think of it. The White Star Line contracted the CS Mackay-Bennett to do recovery work and “in seven days they recovered 306 bodies but 116 of them were buried at sea because of lack of identification”. All of the first class passengers retrieved were packed in coffins while all others were sewn into canvas bags and stowed in the hold on ice. Steve Turner is a music journalist, biographer and poet. The Band That Played On is a great addition to the Titanic body of information. * * * *