By DAVID BLACKMORE
Friday, May 20, 2011
When budding violinist John Hume got the nod to be the lead violinist on the doomed Titanic, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t resist.
The 21-year-old even left behind his pregnant fiancee Mary Costin to join the band which entertained the passengers during Titanic’s only voyage.
And when the famous liner struck an iceberg at 11.40pm on April 14 1912, he carried on playing until the ship sank the following morning - something survivors vividly remember.
Now his great-niece is hoping to keep his memory alive with a biography she has written about his short life called RMS Titanic The First Violin.
Yvonne Hume, from Boughton, near Downham Market, said: “He was a popular musician on the Titanic being a young lad, good looking and being able to play a tune for people with them only having to hum a few bars.
“Most of the survivors remembered him and on the night the Titanic sank, he was on the deck and played until the ship sank.
“He left it to the last minute which meant he didn’t even have chance to put a life jacket on before the ship sank.”
Mrs Hume said she knew about her great-uncle and about him playing on the Titanic through stories passed down through the family.
She continued: “There was never too much said about him by because it is a sad story and I was worried about how much information there would be when I started writing the book.
“However it quickly became clear that he was a marvellous man and I became so involved in his short life that I found it hard to switch back to reality.”
The mum-of-three said her great-grandfather was a violin maker and he taught her great-uncle to play the violin at the age of five.
She continued: “Before he was even a teenager, he would perform during the interval at his local theatre and by the age of 17 he started going on ships to perform.
“He played on at least five ships before the Titanic and he was put forward to play on the ship because they really wanted to cream of the crop to play for passengers.
“It was such a famous ship and the largest liner at the time and that’s what made John really want to be on its maiden voyage.”
Mr Hume’s body was recovered following the disaster and he is buried in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Mrs Hume added: “I am so proud of him and what he achieved in his short life. What I am hoping to do now is put a plaque of where he used to live in Dumfries (Scotland) because I want people to know what he did.
“For a 21-year-old to carry on playing while the ship was going down - talk about stiff upper lip. I want to keep the memory of that alive.”
The Boughton resident said the most frustrating time during her research for the biography was finding out what happened to her great-uncle’s daughter.
She added: “It was very time-consuming and frustrating looking through the records and I even had the help of an investigator.
“But it wasn’t until just before the book went off to be printed that I had a letter from her grandson and we met up and I found out what happened to her and even got her pictures for the book.”