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