The world-famous violin believed to be the one played by RMS Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley, went on display in Belfast, Northern Ireland September 18th 2013.
The instrument, which was discovered in 2006, was that played by second-class passenger Wallace Hartley on Titanic’s fateful night of April 14th, 1912.
Accompanied by a leather luggage case initialed W. H. H., the violin is on display exclusively at Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience, located at the birthplace of the great liner in the historic maritime city, prior to it going to public auction next month.
It will be on public display until October 13, 2013 – possibly for the final time before it goes to auction on October 19 at Henry Aldridge & Sons, The Devizes Auctioneer, in Wiltshire, England.
The original violin, made of maple, spruce and ebony, was given to Lancashire-born Wallace Hartley as a gift from his fiancée Maria Robinson on the event of their engagement.
Regarded as a hero in Titanic’s folk lore, Hartley is credited with the decision to lead his eight-strong band into the historic hymn ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ in an attempt to calm passengers as they boarded lifeboats.
All eight men perished in the disaster, and Hartley’s remains were recovered on April 29, 1912 by crew on the ship, the MacKay Bennett. His body was recorded as number 224.
The arrival of the violin also launches Titanic Belfast’s autumn and winter campaigns, which will include an Alternative Festival and Mid-term Festival in October, and the Festival of Family and Friends in November.
Titanic Belfast CEO Tim Husbands said: “We are delighted that Titanic Belfast has been chosen by the auctioneers to display Wallace Hartley’s violin which he played on RMS Titanic.
“It’s part of the ongoing remarkable story of Titanic that has brought the violin to the birthplace of Titanic in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and to the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience.
“This could very well be the last opportunity for visitors to see one of the world’s most famous and potentially most valuable Titanic artifacts before it goes to auction.”
Tickets for Titanic Belfast can be booked in advance online at www.titanicbelfast.com or at ticket-desks in Titanic Belfast.
Andrew Aldridge, a Chartered Valuation Surveyor with Henry Aldridge and Son Auctioneer, said: “The Wallace Hartley Titanic violin is one of the most iconic collectables from the 20th century.
“Bandleader Hartley was an incredibly brave man whose actions helped to calm passengers during Titanic’s last hours. The authentication process behind the collection has been a long and exhaustive one with some of the world’s leading experts in their respective fields helping to assemble a conclusive package of independent reports to accompany the archive. The auction of the violin and associated items will be on October 19th in Devizes, Wiltshire.
“The violin has attracted interest from collectors all over the world especially after its recent successful three month exhibition in the United States where in excess of 100,000 enthusiasts viewed it.
“This is the last time the violin will be seen in public prior to returning to Devizes for auction viewing and sale.”
Titanic Belfast is an iconic six-floor building featuring nine interpretive and interactive galleries that explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as the City and people which made her. It is the world’s largest Titanic exhibition.
The building houses temporary exhibits, a banqueting suite, education and community facilities, catering and retail space, and a basement car park. Visitors learn about the construction of RMS Titanic and the wide and rich story of Northern Ireland’s industrial and maritime heritage.
Supported by the Northern Ireland Executive, Titanic Belfast is a unique public/private partnership funded by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour and Titanic Quarter Ltd. It is operated by Titanic Belfast Ltd and owned by the Titanic Foundation Ltd.
About Wallace Hartley
DOB: 02/06/78 – 15/04/12
Occupation: Bandmaster/ Violinist. In April 1912, Hartley was in the employment of Messrs C.W. & F.N. Black Bros Musical directors of Liverpool.
Residence: Dewsbury, Yorkshire England.
Marital Status: Engaged to Maria Robinson.
Port of Embarkation: Southampton 10th April.
Ticket No: 250654
Class: Second Class
Cabin Number: (Unnumbered) The quintet shared a six berth cabin aft on the starboard side at the end of the second class cabins on E Deck. This cabin was not numbered but was opposite the cabin of Edwina Troutt in E101. The band stored their instruments in the adjacent cabin.
Ticket Price: Unknown – paid for by his employers.
Hartley was born to parents, Albion and Elizabeth Hartley on the 2nd June 1878 at his family home at 62 Greenfield Hill. Both parents were employed in the textiles industry. His father was a mill manager, then later in life worked in the insurance industry and his mother was a weaver. His father also was a choirmaster and a Sunday school teacher at Bethel Independent Methodist Chapel. He attended Colne’s Methodist day school where he learnt to read and write and to play the violin. After leaving school in 1892, he worked at Craven and Union Bank in Colne.
He later moved and joined the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra and later in 1903 he joined the Bridlington Municipal Orchestra. In 1909, he moved to Dewsbury, West Yorkshire and gained employment with the Cunard Line as a musician performing on the RMS Lucania, RMS Lusitania and the RMS Mauretania. During this time, there was an organisational change and the musicians had transferred from the employment of Cunard to a musical agency C.W. & F.N. Black. This agency provided musicians for both Cunard and the White Star Line. With this change, the musicians were no longer considered crew on board, but now were treated as Second Class passengers.
Hartley’s Life on board Titanic
There were two separate musical units on board. Wallace Hartley was the bandmaster of the larger saloon orchestra. His group was used for routine performances in various first and second class areas. The other group consisted of three players and was known as a ‘deck band’ and were primarily based outside the á la carte restaurant at the foot of the main stairway aft. The members of the two musical sets did not perform together. The only time they performed as a group was during Titanic’s sinking.
Hartley lead and performed with four other musicians, John Wesley Woodward, the cellist, John Law Hume, the violinist, John Fredrick Preston Clark, the bass violinist and Theodore Brailey, the pianist. Together they performed at various times throughout the day particularly during morning hours, tea-times and after-dinner concerts and Sunday Service.
Wallace Hartley boarded Titanic with his fellow musicians at 10am on the 10th April. By 11:30am he and his band were on the boat deck playing for the first class passengers boarding the ship.
As the ship departed from Cherbourg port the band played. It was their routine to perform in the first class reception area before and after dinner– this is the area where the first class passengers would gather before being admitted for dinner.
During the Sinking of Titanic
At approximately 12.15am the band stared up once more in the first class lounge as by this time the passengers began to leave their cabins and wonders about the boat deck and the other areas. This was the only time all eight musicians from the two musical sets performed together. It is believed that they were ordered to perform at this time to reassure passengers and avoid a panic. (Source – Report by secretary Williams of Amalgamated Musicians’ Union). It is not known who gave the order, but it is suggested that it came from Purser McElroy acting on the captain’s orders. (Source – Yvonne Carroll).
A little later as the lifeboats began to be loaded, the band moved up to the boat deck, setting up outside the port- forward first class entrance facing lifeboat 6. By this time, they were wearing both their coats and lifejackets. This had a calming effect on the boat deck as Second Officer Charles Lightoller later reflected on their presence in his memoirs. “Passing along to No.6 boat to load and lower, I could hear the band playing cheery sort of music … I think it helped us all.”
At 1.30am, just before departing in a lifeboat John and Florence Ware, spoke to Hartley on the boat deck. Hartley gave Florence his sliver hip flask. (Source – author Yvonne Carroll)
At approximately 2.10am, the boat deck steadily sinking below the waves and the officers Lightholler and Murdoch were struggling to launch the last collapsible boats. Hartley ends his more light hearted and cheerful tunes and begins to play the hymn ‘Nearer My God to Thee’.
It is purported that in the next few moments, the band stopped playing as the waves poured over the bridge and up the boat deck. It is believed that Hartley strapped his violin to his chest. It is believed that the bandsmen were swept of the deck with those remaining as a large wave swept over the deck.
All eight musicians perished during the sinking of Titanic. As soon as news of the ships fate had become known, many newspapers printed stories highlighting the heroism and self-sacrifice of the bandsmen. The first was the New York Globe which printed the headline ‘Band Played “Nearer My God to Thee” as Ship Sank’ on Friday 19th April.