ANDREW Hume, of 42 George Street, Dumfries, thought that he had been through all a man could bear. His son John - known as ‘Jock’ in the Scottish tradition – perished in the Titanic disaster.
Jock, the band’s violinist, was only 21 when he died in the freezing seawater. His father, an accomplished musician who had tutored his son from an early age, was understandably distraught at his searing loss. But he was comforted by the constant assurances of others that his son had died a hero.
Two years later Jock Hume’s father was to be dealt another indescribable blow. He received the painful and prostrating news that his daughter Grace, aged only 22, had been tortured unto death by German soldiers on the Western Front.
A NURSE'S TRAGEDY
DUMFRIES GIRL THE VICTIM OF SHOCKING BARBARITY
News has reached Dumfries of the shocking death of a Dumfries young woman, Nurse Grace Hume, who went out to Belgium at the outbreak of war. Nurse Hume was engaged at the camp hospital at Vilvorde, and she was the victim of horrible cruelty at the hands of German soldiers. Her breasts were cut off and she died in great agony. Nurse Hume's family received a note written shortly before she died. It was dated September 6th, and ran: “Dear Kate, this is to say good-bye. Have not long to live. Hospital has been set on fire.
A man here had his head cut off. My right breast has been taken away. Give my love to --- Good-bye, Grace.” Nurse Hume's left breast was cut away after she had written the note. She was a young woman of twenty-three and was formerly a nurse in Huddersfield Hospital.
Nurse Mullard, of Inverness, delivered the note personally to Nurse Hume's sister at Dumfries. She was also at Vilvorde, and she states that Nurse Hume acted the part of a heroine. A German attacked a wounded soldier whom Nurse Hume was taking to hospital. The nurse took his gun and shot the German dead.
(The Star, September 16, 1914)
The father had been told of Grace’s horrible killing by another daughter, Kate, perhaps only a week before the shocking details were reported in the Press.
Andrew Hume lost no time. He immediately wrote to the War Office seeking fuller details of what had taken place in the attack on the hospital in Vilvorde, Belgium.
The news meanwhile raced around Dumfries. How could such appalling agonies visit a local family twice in two years?
The local newspaper, the Dumfries Standard, quickly learned of the outrage and was the first to break what would be a major story across the newspapers of the nation. The paper sought from Kate, and received, permission to carry the contents of the letter. It also published a facsimile of the girl’s dying note to her loved ones.
An account of the scandalous killing swiftly appeared in the London Evening Standard with the note: “This message has been submitted to the Press Bureau, which does not object to the publication.”
The story – which amounted to a bone-chilling vindication of Britain’s decision to wage on Germany in defence of little Belgium weeks earlier – was said to be particularly well authenticated.
It was further published by a number of London evening papers of repute, including the Pall Mall Gazette and Westminster Gazette, the Globe, Star, and others.
Astoundingly, the deeply disturbing incident would lead to a full criminal trial – which was held in Dumfries itself.
High Street, Dumfries
This time a third family member would be swept up in the horror. Because it was Kate Hume who was put on trial!
Kate Hume, seventeen, was charged at Dumfries yesterday, before Sheriff Substitute Primrose, with having uttered a forged letter purporting to have been written by her sister, Nurse Grace Hume in Huddersfield. She declined to make any statement, on the advice of her agent, and was committed to prison to await trial.
(The Times, September 30, 1914.)
The Times, on earlier learning that the story was utterly false – the alive-andkicking Grace Hume had raised a hue and cry in Huddersfield as soon as the reports were published – called for an immediate inquiry.
The newspaper also suggested, rather extravagantly, that the story may have been invented by “German agents in order to discredit all atrocity stories.” It also noted in an Editorial:
The remaining fact is that her sister in Dumfries states, according to the Yorkshire Post, that she was visited by a "Nurse Mullard," professing to be a nurse from Belgium, who told her the story and gave her the letter from her sister in a handwriting that resembled her sister's.
(The Times, September 18, 1914.)