Titanic violin found: Instrument recovered in attic bears message

March 15, 2013 | 11:16 a.m.
Survivors of the Titanic have said they remember the band, led by Wallace Hartley, playing on deck even as passengers boarded lifeboats after the ship hit an iceberg. Hartley’s violin was believed lost in the 1912 disaster, but auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son say an instrument unearthed in 2006 has undergone rigorous testing and proven to be Hartley’s. (Henry Aldridge / Associated Press)

Survivors of the Titanic have said they remember the band, led by Wallace Hartley, playing on deck even as passengers boarded lifeboats after the ship hit an iceberg.  (Henry Aldridge / Associated Press)

The violin of the Titanic bandleader, who played as he and bandmates went down with the ship, has been recovered, according to a British auction house. The instrument bears a message from the musician’s sweetheart.

“For Wallace, on the occasion of our engagement. From Maria.”

Like the 1997 James Cameron movie, that story might spur a few tears. As the AFP reports, auction house Henry Aldridge & Son says it has confirmed the violin is that of Wallace Hartley.  Aldridge tells AFP the message was from Hartley’s fiancee: “You can appreciate why he wanted to keep it with him.”

Hartley was among the more than 1,500 who died when the oceanliner sank in April 1912.  The violin passed through a lot of hands over the last century. It was reportedly returned to Maria Robinson, Hartley’s grieving fiancee, after it was found strapped to his body following the disaster. At Robinson’s death, it was donated to the Salvation Army, the York Press reports, and ultimately wound up in an attic in east Yorkshire, England.

The current, unnamed owner contacted Henry Aldridge & Son, which specializes in Titanic items. The firm then consulted forensic scientists and Oxford and came to the conclusion that the violin was the genuine article.

Testing showed corrosion deposits were “compatible with immersion in sea water,” the Associated Press reports, and a silver expert studied a plate on the violin’s neck, determining that it fit the time profile.

Henry Aldridge & Son said the violin will go on public display at the end of the month at Belfast City Hall, less than a mile from where Titanic was built.  The auction house estimates the violin’s worth in the six figures.

The centennial of the disaster, whose real-life stories remain vivid 100 years later,  was observed April 15 last year.

— Amy Hubbard


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16 Responses to Titanic violin found: Instrument recovered in attic bears message

  1. sabrina says:

    What a poignant story. I have to admit I still bawl my eyes out whenever I watch the 1997 version of the movie Titanic!

  2. Nicoll says:

    It is really remarkable to find this beautiful testament to Wallace Hartley. What a lovely reminder of a truly heroic group of men, the valliant musicans of the Titanic's Orchestra.

  3. sarasand says:

    Give me a break. What exactly are the odds that even though the owner drowned in the ocean, the violin was not water damaged to the point of being warped/mangled. And what exactly did the guy have with him while playing that would have allowed him to "Strap" it to his body? This is just plain sad!

    • kristine says:

      How many wooden ships last underwater? I'm sure it's warped and not in playable condition, but wood doesn't dissolve when it touches water.

    • John W. says:

      Wow. Could you be any more inappropriately cynical? What a truly obnoxious, sad little person you are.

    • Charley Kilol says:

      Maybe a belt, or possibly a pair of suspenders? How about the

    • Stefan Crowley says:

      He strapped it to his body with the life jacket which he was required to wear before the ship went down. The life jacket allowed his body to stay afloat and it was picked up a day later along with other bodies that were floating. They also recovered his watch, cigarette case and cufflinks.

    • SMC says:

      Many musical instrument cases come with shoulder straps. He could have put it on with the strap diagonally across his torso.

  4. Jana Marroletti says:

    This tragedy will never be forgotten. So many stories of the unfortunate and the brave. Tears ran down my face as I read the article about the recovered violin and grieved once again for the band members who provided comfort for others when their was none for themselves. I have to wonder if the same crisis played out in our day and time how many noble acts we would hear of….

    • arch2013 says:

      none we will all be wining about how bad it was on our cell phone and texting ant to busy to be brave and help anybody of just to rude wanting to save our own asz to bouter with the other person every one is out for there own self nowdays

  5. Guest says:

    There's very little to lead that this would be in any playable shape after going through the shock of the water, even that long ago. Its not a testament to the instrument or the luthier, but this man who died and left this love story behind for all of us to remind us that the Titanic was a very real tragedy and not a special effect laden self tribute to James Cameron.

  6. Ranna says:

    Just wondering why the new Titanic Museum in Belfast wouldn't be the chosen venue for this? I would imagine they could use something authentic for a change. After visiting last year, we concluded that it was sadly a bust and a bit of a tourist trap. Being almost all replicas, pictures and video footage we found it akin to watching a very expensive documentary on the subject.

  7. gchowland says:

    I can only hope,that this instrument will be donated to a museum,as opposed to any cooperate or private gain.This instrument is so important to the heroism of the Titanic staff,that it should be displayed as such.

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