Mr. J. Wesley Woodward

Eastbourne Gazette

One of the best known among the hero musicians of the Titanic was Mr. J. Wesley Woodward, son of Mrs. Woodward, of The Firs, Windmill Road, Headington, Oxford, who was one of the violoncelle players of the Duke of Devonshire's Eastbourne Orchestra. Mr. Woodward who was a native of Hilltop, West Staffordshire, was an experienced musician, and although he was only a little over 30 years of age he was qualified to take a leading position in any orchestra.. A brilliant soloist he had a very extensive repertoire, and his services were always in request when chamber music had to be performed.

He first came into prominence as a member of the Eastbourne Municipal Orchestra, afterwards joining the Von Leer Orchestra, at the Grand Hotel Eastbourne. As a member of the Duke of Devonshire's orchestra he won the reputation of being one of the most useful members of that well-known combination, the dissolution of which was a source of keen regret to the inhabitanta. On leaving Eastbourne Mr. Woodward proceeded to Jamaica where he gave some chamber concerts and won much appreciation as a soloist. Like other artista who visit the island, he experienced great hospitality and kindness, his sunny disposition rendering him a favourite wherever he went.

Mr. Woodward was deeply interest in engineering, and spent hours in a workshop where he constructed motors and other appliances. Probably his liking for mechanical pursuits had something to do with his decision to obtain an appointment as a member of the orchestra on an Atlantic liner. The first position he filled afloat was on board the Olympic; and he was on the steamer at the time she collided with HMS Hawke. At the moment when the two vessels struck each other, Mr. Woodward and a friend were playing draughts in the next cabin away from the actual point of contact, and he sated that they were so little alarmed that they continued the game. During the past winter Mr. Woodward had been on the Cunarder Caronia, which sailed from Liverpool to New York, and then commenced a series of voyages from America to the Mediterranean, proceeding as far east as Alexandria. Returning to England, he joined the orchestra of the Titanic, but his intention was to quit the sea at the end of the coming summer and seek an appointment in the Devonshire Park Orchestra.

Mr. Woodward thoroughly enjoyed his life on board ship, and the opportunities he had of visiting New York where he made many friends. He had a very high opinion of the Americans as lovers of music. A skilful amateur photographer, he never threw away a good opportunity of securing a really interesting picture. When he was at one of the Mediterranean ports he snapped an Arab in the act of shaving a boy's head outside a Mosque, and the Mussulman manifested the indignation prompted by the well-known scruples of his co-religionists.

Mr. Woodward was unmarried, but was engaged to a young lady resident in London. One of his brothers is the leading tenor in the choir of Magdalen College Chapel, and the fact of his filling this appointment caused the deceased's mother to take up her residence in a suburb of Oxford.

He was a young man of an extremely agreeable and modest bearing, amiable, good-natured, of a sunny disposition, and an easy, equable temper that secured him many friends. He was a licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, and his 'cello playing was always marked by refinement and musicianship; on several occasion he exhibited brilliant qualities as a solo excentant; but he excelled rather as an orchestral player than as a soloist. His orchestral playing was uniformly sound, steady and reliable; while these same invaluable qualities, conjoined with much natural taste and a cultured style, enable him to appear to utmost advantage in chamber music. He was a through and conscientious musician, whose playing, whether in solos or concerted work, was always interesting and always enjoyable. When the Duke of Devonshire's Orchestra broke up Mr. Woodward decided to accept an engagement with the White Star Line after he had taken a brief trip to America; for the change and variety of these trans-Atlantic journeys appealed to him, and he found that his health had gained considerably by the sea voyages.

In one of the short intervals between these crossings I saw him recently, and I remember he spoke in the highest terms of appreciation of the work he was engaged upon; he did not, of course, intend to remain permanently in this kind of employment; but he enjoyed the luxurious trips to and from America, and he was extending his experiences in useful and pleasant distractions. Fortunately there was no premonition then of the final catastrophe that these experiences were fated to lead to; he was full of hope and life and spirits, looking forward confidently to the future, and quite content with the present. To his relations and friends, and to all who knew him, grief at this young musician's death must ever be tinged with a glow of pride at the manner of it. The name of Wesley Woodward will never now be forgotten.

During his residence in Eastbourne Mr. Woodward resided with Mr. George Stevens at Leathorpe, Upper-avenue; and on the occasion of his recent visits deceased called to see Mr. William J. Read (leader of the Duke's Orchestra), Mr. Peilgen, jun., Mr. S. Wardingley and others. There was a very close friendship between Mr. Woodward and Mr. Read on account of their association with the Midlands.

It may be stated that as a teacher of the 'cello, Mr. Woodward met with considerable success.

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John Wesley Woodward

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