On April 15th, the Mostly Ghostly team bring a new local history tour to the streets of Dumfries, honouring the lives of John Law Hume and Thomas Mullin – Heroes of the Titanic.
We’re about to embark on a new journey, diversifying into unchartered territory with a guided walking tour connected with the most famous shipping disaster in peacetime history. When the magnificent White Star Liner, R.M.S. Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic, it left behind a catalogue of untold tragedy with far-reaching consequences, ripping families apart, the repercussions still felt in present times. This subject is deeply compelling, for so many reasons, and within the annals of misfortune, inspiring stories of brave, selfless people – Titanic Heroes – gave light and hope in the darkness.
One such figure, who has become a local and worldwide icon is John Law Hume, a member of the Titanic band, a talented violinist who became immortalised through his brave actions on deck. Along with his seven friends, including band leader Wallace Hartley, Jock played his beloved violin, trying hard to calm the rising panic as chaos erupted all around. Upbeat music, such as ragtime, was said to have been played, but as the ship lowered into the freezing waters, it is most widely recognised that the last piece heard was Nearer my God to Thee. Leaving his friends and trying to escape an almost certain death never seemed to figure in Jock’s story, he continued to do what he loved; playing music, bringing a sense of comfort, hope and normality amidst unimaginable terror.
Another is Thomas Mullin, a young lad from Dumfries, once a talented pattern weaver at the now derelict Rosefield Mills. Failing eyesight led Tom to the ships where first he sailed on the St. Louis; unfortunately, his next job was aboard the Titanic. Thomas and Jock attended the same school in Dumfries and remarkably, of the three hundred or so bodies that were recovered, both Jock and Tom were amongst them. Tom sounded like a very caring man with a strong sense of his responsibilities, who sent money home to help his family. Tom was one of the last to be found by the Minia. Jock and two fellow bandsmen were recovered by the cable laying ship Mackay-Bennett.
We’ve always been fascinated by the Titanic disaster and the people involved, it seemed to signify the end of an era, the luxury, the class system, people leaving in search of their dreams, such hope met with a terrible fate. The legend of the practically ‘unsinkable’ ship, over a century of debate and discussion about what actually happened and why – a massive and enthralling subject that divides as much as it unifies. We had known about the links for a while, but one of the main inspirations for our tour was the wonderful book And the Band Played On by Jock Hume’s Grandson, Christopher Ward. We feel passionately about bringing this compelling story to life, raising the profile of these young men to visitors and local folk alike.
There is of course another local man, hailing from nearby Dalbeattie – William McMaster Murdoch – who ascended to the rank of First Officer on Titanic. Murdoch was witnessed loading lifeboats and is believed to have fallen into the inhospitable waters. His body was never recovered. William is remembered in the town as being a kind and decent man with no airs and graces. In an article published by the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser following the sinking, the Rev. J. A. Paton, “said he had always been struck with Mr. Murdoch’s courteous, brave, and unassuming manner.” His story will be explored in a future event.
With less than two months till Heroes of the Titanic debuts, we’re also on the lookout for lesser known local connections to the ship. Born in Govan, six-year-old girl Annie Harper, known as Nina, or Nan, survived while her father, an evangelical pastor, was sadly lost. Nan married a minister from Moffat in later life. We believe that Harold Bride, one of the Marconi radio operators, married a girl from Stranraer and settled in Dumfries and Galloway. Harold was originally from London. Maybe there are more stories out there just waiting to be found…
Our Heroes of the Titanic Debut Event begins at the Robert Burns Film Theatre with a screening of classic Titanic film – A Night To Remember – introduced by our special guest Christopher Ward. There follows a guided tour around Dumfries, covering key locations linked with Jock and Tom where they will discover the stories of these two school pals who set sail on the ill-fated Ship of Dreams…