The Titanic has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, not least because it cast a dark shadow over the life of my mother, whose father, Jock, died before she was born. It left her, she said, with the double stigma of illegitimacy and being ‘a charity's child'. Throughout my childhood, the Titanic was always there on the horizon: menacing, and unsinkable.
In her mid teens, my mother turned her back on Dumfries and made a new life in London where she spent the rest of her life. She had many opportunities to visit her father's grave in Halifax, but chose not to do so.
In 1991 I found myself by chance in Halifax where I discovered in the Nova Scotia archives things we didn't know about Jock's death: what he was wearing when his body was recovered, the contents of his pockets. I thought that my mother would be pleased to know such details, but instead she said, 'It was none of your business'.
But the seeds of interest were sewn in my own mind. After my mother's death in 1996, I started researching the Humes and the Costins (and the slightly less interesting Wards) and it soon became clear that this was a story worth sharing. And The Band Played On was published in 2011.
Like Jock I was an early starter, joining the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle upon Tyne in my teens before working in Fleet Street for more than twenty years.
After leaving Fleet Street, where I edited the Daily Express in the early Eighties, I went on to co-found Europe's largest digital content agency, Redwood, an amazingly successful company of clever young people, in which I am still involved today. I live with my wife Nonie in the Scottish Borders - in Jedburgh on the east side, rather than Dumfries in the west, where Jock and Mary were born and bred.
IN THE PRESS
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'A heartbreaking story wonderfully told'
creator of Downton Abbey