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Titanic band leader's violin discovered
6:16pm Friday 15th March 2013 in News
THE violin that was played by the bandmaster on the Titanic can be revealed for the first time along with the story behind its discovery.
The instrument used by Wallace Hartley as the band famously played on while the liner sank was thought to have been lost in the Atlantic in the 1912 disaster.
It wasn’t until 2006 when the son of an amateur musician who had been given the instrument by her violin teacher unearthed it in the attic.
The discovery prompted experts to have the relic forensically analysed.
And now, after seven years of testing costing thousands, the violin has been proven to be original.
The rosewood violin is well preserved despite being exposed to the sea for ten days after the sinking. There are two cracks said to have been opened by moisture damage.
Photos also show the corroded engraved silver plate screwed to the base of the fiddle that provided scientists with the key proof of its authenticity.
The violin, worth six figures, will go on public display at the City Hall in Belfast, where Titanic was built, at the end of this month.
It is likely to be auctioned off in the future.
Titanic left Southampton on April 10, 1912, and when she struck an iceberg on April 14, Hartley was instructed to assemble the band and play music in order to maintain calm.
The eight musicians performed on the deck of the Titanic while the passengers lined up for the lifeboats.
The band carried on until the bitter end, famously playing a final hymm of Nearer, My God, To Thee.
Hartley, 34, and the other seven band members perished along with 1,500 passengers and crew when the vessel sank.
After his body was recovered ten days later, the violin was not listed by officials among the inventory of items found in his possession.
While scientists spent seven years studying the violin, specialist Titanic auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son researched the story behind it.
That shows Hartley strapped around him his large leather valise – luggage case – in which he put his violin before the sinking.
They also found the transcript of a telegram dated July 19, 1912, in the diary of Hartley’s fiancee, Maria Robinson, to the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia.
It reads: “I would be most grateful if you could convey my heartfelt thanks to all who have made possible the return of my late fiance’s violin.”
Miss Robinson had given it to Hartley in 1910 to mark their engagement and had it engraved.
She kept the jewellery and violin in the leather case as a shrine to her late fiance until she died from stomach cancer in 1939, aged 59, at her home in Bridlington, East Yorks.
Her sister, Margaret, gave the violin to Bridlington Salvation Army and told its leader, a Major Renwick, about the instrument’s association with Titanic.
Maj Renwick then gave it to a local music and violin teacher. In the early 1940s, the current owner’s mother was a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force stationed at Bridlington and met the music teacher who gave her the case and violin. The unnamed owner inherited the valise and its contents, including the violin, years later and contacted the auctioneers.
They took the violin to the Government’s Forensic Science Service which concluded the “corrosion deposits” on it were “considered compatible with immersion in sea water”.
Craig Sopin, 55, a Philidelphia lawyer who owns one of the world’s largest collections of Titanic memorabilia, said: “As far as Titanic memorabilia is concerned it is the most important piece that has ever come up.”