Born in Colne. Lancs (also the birthplace of William P. Hartley), on 2 June 1878, the son of the choirmaster at Bethel PM Chapel, Trawden, he became a member of the choir and learned the violin from a fellow choir member. He became a professional musician in 1903 and joined the White Star Line in 1909. As bandmaster on the Titanic, in 1912 he assembled his fellow musicians to play on the deck of the sinking liner, including the tune of the hymn 'Nearer, my God, to Thee'.
His body was the only one among the musicians to be recovered and his funeral was held at Bethel Chapel. There is a memorial to him in the town.
See also Woodward, John Wesley