Titanic violin set to be auctioned

Titanic.'Wallace Hartley.
Titanic.'Wallace Hartley.

It is the violin believed to have been played as the Titanic sank.

Now the instrument, thought to have belonged to the heroic bandmaster Wallace Hartley, is expected to fetch a record sum at auction.

Violinist Hartley, who lived in Dewsbury, was the leader of the eight-piece band who sacrificed their own hopes of survival and played hymns in an attempt to calm passengers on the so-called ‘unsinkable ship’.

If proved authentic, the violin will have survived the tragedy in which more than 1,500 people lost their lives in the Atlantic on April 15, 1912.

Final scientific tests are underway to prove its authenticity, but it is expected to sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds when it is auctioned by Titanic experts Henry Alrdrige and Son, based in Devizes, Wiltshire.

It has passed all other tests over the last seven years and the results of the last investigation are due in the next few weeks.

A plan of the Titanic used in the inquiry into the ship sold for a record £220,000 in 2011 but it is believed the instrument will exceed this price.

Mr Hartley famously led the Titanic band in playing the hymn ‘Nearer My God To Thee’, according to reports, in the final moments before the doomed liner hit an iceberg. All eight members of the band perished.

The fate of Hartley’s violin has long been a mystery to Titanic scholars – newspapers at the time reported that he was found fully dressed with his violin strapped to his chest. However, when the effects of Body 224 were itemised by The Office of the Provincial Secretary in Nova Scotia, there was no mention of it.

The anonymous seller of the violin claims that Hartley’s fiancé retrieved the violin after his death. The instrument had been a gift from her.

In April last year, his only letter to his parents from the ill-fated liner sold for more than £100,000 in an American auction. On April 10, 1912, Hartley wrote: “This is a fine ship… We have a fine band… I shall probably arrive home on the Sunday morning.”

The letter was written on his first day aboard Titanic. He tells his family in Dewsbury that he had missed coming home ‘very much’.

In her book, The Story of Wallace Hartley, Yvonne Carroll quotes a tribute to him from the Reporter: “His courage and calmness have touched the imagination of men and women in all parts of the world.”

A plaque in honour of the 33-year-old is on the house in West Park Street where he lived as an adult, his family having moved to Dewsbury from Colne.