The musicians of the Titanic
It’s over a hundred years ago that the Titanic sank with such an appalling loss of life but we’re still fascinated by the fate of this ‘unsinkable’ ship and its passengers and crew. All the band members went down with the ship. Who were these men? And what is the truth about the last song they played as the ship went down?
Those of us whose first movie exposure to the story of the Titanic will remember that the band members were portrayed as being middle-aged men. See the video clip below. But in fact, these were young men. The youngest was Roger Marie Bricoux from France – a mere twenty years old. The others were:
- Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster. He was a violinist and was thirty-three when the Titanic sank
- Percy Taylor was a cellist from London and thirty two at the time of the sinking
- John Woodward, also thirty two and a cellist, was from Oxford
- John Clarke. He was a thirty year old bass player from Liverpool
- Theodore Ronald Brailey wasa London pianist and twenty four when the ship sank
- Georges Alexandre Krins was from Belgium; a twenty three year old violinist
- John Law Hume was a violinist from Scotland and just twenty one. You can read his story in the book shown here
What was the last song played on the Titanic?
The story differs. For many years, it was accepted that it was the hymn, Nearer My God To Thee, as show in in the video below. Other accounts suggest it was a song entitled Autumn.
The fact is, that the few accounts from survivors who specified Nearer My God To Thee are likely to be unreliable. This is because those witnesses had all left the ship in lifeboats at least an hour before the ship sank. Even if their lifeboats were close to the ship in its final moments (which is doubtful) they would not have been able to hear well enough to distinguish the tune.
Of two witnesses who survived the sinking who were close enough to hear, one said it was Autumn.
In recent years, the account of a survivor who was on the ship until its final moments recently came to light. In these memoirs, he said that Wallace Hartley and his men played spirited and lively tunes to keep up morale. He was familiar with Nearer My God To Thee but said that he knew none of the songs the band playing as the ship was sinking.
The chances are that we will never know.
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Review: And the Band Played On
December 15, 2014
Loved this article. I find it delightful how interesting it is to learn what would seem a little detail of a larger event. It makes us ask more questions and look at everything with a different eye. Well said!
December 15, 2014
The chances are that we will never know the truth about the Titanic. But on the other hand, new information is being unearthed all the time!