Teenager discovers family link with Titanic ahead of centenary concert

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The tragedy of the luxury liner RMS Titanic foundering on her maiden voyage a hundred years ago has fascinated people for generations.

There are stories of heroism, cowardice, loyalty, leadership and love in the three hours after the ship struck an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the ocean.

But as the centenary of the ship’s sinking approaches, one story has taken on a special meaning for a Bristol teenager.

Charlotte Woodward discovered last year that her great-great-great-uncle was the cellist in the band who famously took their instruments on to the ship’s deck and “played on” as the waves lapped around their ankles.

John Wesley Woodward was 32 years old when he went down with the doomed White Star liner and it is in his memory that his great-great-great-niece will take part in a musical tribute to the 1,517 people who died on April 15 1912.

The 13-year-old, who plays the violin and piano and has singing lessons, has been chosen to take part in a special centenary remembrance concert.

The young musician, who attends Redland Green School, is unable to play the violin in the specially-written concert, The Wreck Of The Titanic, but will be singing in the choir.

“It’s really cool to be involved, knowing my own great- great-great-uncle was the man who was playing the cello on the deck as the ship sank,” Charlotte said.

The eight band members performed below decks for as long as possible after the ship hit the iceberg but were forced to move to the deck, where they carried as panic grew around them.

Witness accounts reveal the musicians made no attempt to push their way on to the lifeboats themselves, making the decision to continue playing to try to calm down the crowd.

“I think it’s very inspirational and I’m quite proud of what he did,” Charlotte said.

“You can watch back the movie and feel that you’re actually part of it because you actually have a link towards it.”

Speaking about her great-great-grandfather’s brother, she added: “It’s said that he was a very thorough and conscientious musician. Their instruments were the closest things to them and I think they loved playing so much that they just thought that they’d like to spend their last minutes doing what they loved.”

Charlotte plays violin with the Bristol Schools Concert Orchestra and is now considering taking up a third instrument in light of her family connections.

“If I could, I’d like to learn to play the cello now after hearing the news, but I think I’ll stick with the violin for now,” she said.

Charlotte’s parents Mark, a surgeon at Bristol Children’s Hospital, and Sarah, a GP, discovered that Mr Woodward’s great-great uncle had been a Titanic victim only last year.

The family were contacted by author Steve Turner, who was writing a book called The Band That Played On, about the musicians’ tragic story.