Titanic’s instrument list as reported by the press

Every photomontage of Titanic’s band lists six to eight musicians with their photos, names and sometimes with their instruments. (There were eight musicians on board, and in some publications, for various reasons, photos were simply missing.) When the story of the band’s final brave performance hit the press the public wanted to know more about these men.

The Sphere, London May 4, showing six of Titanic‘s bandsmen.
Bricoux and Clarke missing.

In the aftermath of the tragedy there were much bigger issues to sift through, specifically the series of events, choices and errors that led to the loss of the vessel and so many lives. For this reason historians and inquiry officials did not delve into matters of the music on board Titanic. It was the press that supplied the information, fueled by public interest. Unfortunately, historical accuracy has not always been the press’s forte.

Photomontage showing seven of Titanic‘s bandsmen. Bricoux missing.

In 1912 reporters assumed that both of Titanic’s hired bands performed with a piano, and two pianists were faithfully listed.

Amalgamated Musicians’ Union poster:

  • W. Hartley Bandmaster
  • P. C. Taylor Piano
  • G. Krins Violin
  • R. Bricoux ‘Cello
  • W. T. Brailey Piano
  • J. W. Woodward ‘Cello
  • J. F. C. Clarke Bass
  • J. L. Hume Violin
Amalgamated Musicians’ Union poster, Spring 1912,
showing all eight bandsmen.

It was known that Titanic’s pianist also played cello, so through the years Taylor and Brailey were each credited with both instruments. Clarke has at times been credited with playing viola as well as stand-up bass. Hume has been called first violin.

Now that it is known that only the quintet’s music was arranged to include piano, several questions arise regarding the instruments in Titanic’s ensembles. If the voyage required only one pianist, which of the two who were listed truly played piano? If the second listed pianist played a different instrument, what did he play?

Beyond the obvious questions regarding the instruments there are deeper questions, like why didn’t anyone notice the mistake in 1912 and correct it in the press? Wouldn’t that particular bandsman’s relatives or friends have wanted him properly recognized?

The Black brothers who had hired the bandsmen would have had a document in their office that listed the musicians and their instruments. One wonders how out of tune they were with the entire event, or whether they even read the papers or posters that illustrated the band. They did send a bill for alterations on Jock Hume’s band uniform (the one he was wearing when he died) to Andrew Hume, the violinist’s father. Such behavior is not indicative of men who were socially engaged. It is therefore not surprising that the Black Brothers were not forthcoming with accurate information on the bandsmen.

The instrumental make-up of the bands will be the focus of the next several installments of Titanic Piano.

Related posts


The Sphere (London, 4 May 1912) p. 104. Showing six musicians, (note: Bricoux and Clarke missing). Image courtesy of the Nova Scotia Archives.

Image of Titanic‘s band available from Musicians’ Report and Journal LSE Library Archive

6 thoughts on “Titanic’s instrument list as reported by the press

  1. Theodore Brailey may have been the error pianist. He could play piano, cello and flute. As far as i know, Taylor could play piano and cello. Theodore is likley the error, right Rebeca?


  2. Hello Rebekah,After I finish reading \”The Band That Played On,\” I'm going to go back and re-read your entire blog, to better put these things you are discussing into context. I'm branching off from my study of the ship to focus more on her passengers and crew, with particular focus on the band. I look forward to more posts but please, when you update your blog, can you post a link on facebook so that I know to go and check, thanks 🙂


  3. Wolfgang, Are you a member of the Facebook group \”TITANIC Passengers and Crew Research Group?\” Yesterday I posted a link on my own personal profile, on the \”Olympic Class Liners – Olympic, Titanic, Britannic\” page as well as the aforementioned P&C group. There's another one I remember sometimes, the \”White Star Memories\” group, and \”Titanic Belfast\” sometimes, though I'm not sure how appropriate it is for me to promote my blog there. Thanks for your interest in my blog. Steve Turner's book is very good. To understand Jock Hume you should also have \”And the Band Played On\” by Christopher Ward, grandson of Jock. I found his coverage of the trial of Kate Hume very insightful, and he wrote family stories that would simply never be found anywhere else. Steve Turner's book is a biography and focuses on the identities of the bandsmen prior to the voyage as well as the impact of loss after the disaster. I found the chapters on the voyage itself, and the sinking, a little disappointing. Consider my blog to be an online companion to the book. It is the study of the ship itself that makes sense of survivor accounts that seem confusing or contradictory. I do not intend to write about the biographical aspects of the bandsmen. I feel Steve has that all wrapped up as well as it will ever be accomplished, and readers should get his book. I've read it twice!R


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