It would be interesting to find out how many books have been published about the wreck of the Titanic, writes Bill Purdue.
For all the time I have worked in libraries, we always had something to offer people whenever we had an enquiry for information on the subject. Of course as this year is the 100th anniversary of the sinking, there are even more books available.
There is one book which is just a thin paperback with a plain cover which was apparently published before the disaster and appears to foretell it. When I was working in libraries several years ago, the book was requested by a reader and we managed to get a new copy even though it was (I think) from the USA and published by a small publisher. Unfortunately I can’t remember the title – if anyone recognises what I’m trying to describe, perhaps they could remind me of the title?
Talking of the Titanic, I can highly recommend And the Band Played on by Christopher Ward. The author is a former editor of the Daily Express and chairman of the Redwood magazine agency. The main subject of this book is Mr Ward’s grandfather, Jock Law Hume, the violinist and member of the small band of musicians which travelled on the Titanic and kept on playing as the ship went down.
It’s also the story of Jock Hume’s wife to be, Mary, whom he left back in Dumfries, expecting their first child, the author’s mother. Jock’s father Andrew, also a musician, was seemingly expert at passing himself off as someone with a better pedigree than he actually had. He was also a very strict father and most of his children tried to get away from the family home as soon as they could.
The book begins with the rather grisly story of the recovery of the bodies from the site of the wreck by the ship, the Mackay-Bennett ,which was sent out from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The writer goes on to show how the Titanic disaster had a devastating effect on all members of Jock’s family and that of his fiancee: the wrongful appropriation by Jock’s father of compensation money awarded to Mary; the claim by his father that Jock had taken two very valuable violins along with him on the journey, when in fact his violin was quite an ordinary one. Then there is the attempt by one of Jock’s sisters to scare her father and stepmother by claiming that her sister Grace had been brutally murdered by the Germans in the First World war, when in fact Grace was living quietly in Huddersfield. Those are just a few examples of episodes in a fascinating story.
This book is well worth reading and you may even be able to pick the book up in the remainder bookshops for a small fraction of the cover price.
I was given a guided tour around the newly refurbished Mansfield library the other day and what a difference they have made. I was very pleased with what I found and will be popping in from time to time. My article about it will be in the Chad soon.
The Sutton Library building reached its 40th anniversary last December and they will be celebrating a couple of months late – during the February half term week – with a series of special events. One of these will be an informal drop-in session on February 14th when I will be talking to people about the books I like and finding out what they like as well as answering questions on writing blogs.