AND THE BAND PLAYED ON by Christopher Ward

Over 100 years after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, it still holds a fascination over many. That movie in 1997, immortalised by Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On', and that scene of Jack and Rose on the front most tip of the ship are the images that immediately come to mind when thinking of this tragedy. I can't forget either, the shot of the band playing on the main deck as the ship is going down around them, knowing they were doomed, but this was their job and their duty. There were over 2000 people on that ship, and more than 1500 of them died. Of those 1500 deaths, only 328 bodies were recovered, many of which were never identified. This is the story of one of the eight members of that band who also happened to be one of the bodies recovered, and fortunately, also identified. Jock Hume, 21 years old, is buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This book is Jock's story, and that of his family before and after the tragedy and how the shadow of the sinking hung over the family for subsequent generations.

The author is Jock's grandson, son of Jock's daughter who was born after the ship sank. Jock was a talented violinst, and was only 21 years old when he sailed on the Titanic, having already worked in ship bands for a year or two prior. He was from Dumfries in Scotland, was madly in love with his pregnant fiancee Mary, and life was good. He was estranged from his very controlling father, and had moved in to live with Mary's family. The catastrophe of the ship sinking completely tore apart the lives of the two families, as it did for many families who lost people in the sinking. I imagine this story is similar to many others over the years on both sides of the Atlantic, rich and poor alike. But this is a really good story. Not only about the families involved, but also the general aftermath of the sinking - the appalling behaviour of the White Star Line, the retrieval of survivors and bodies and their transport back to Canada/US, the seeking of compensation, the uncovering of family secrets, lies and fraud.

At times the writing is perhaps a little melodramatic, and there is some repetition, but overall this is a really interesting and heartbreaking read. The author is quite open about what at times has been quite a painful journey he has been on, and this book is as much about the legacy such a disaster has had on just one family. Which actually makes it very worthwhile reading. And really how much have things changed - families are still being torn apart by corporates,  multinationals and governments duck shoving their responsibilities and culpability when things go wrong.

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