Titanic bandleader's violin to be auctioned in Britain

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 4:09am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 4:14am


It's probably a myth that he played the hymn Nearer, My God, to Thee as the great ship sank, but the battered, seawater-damaged violin believed to have belonged to the bandleader on the Titanic is to go on auction this weekend.

The instrument is likely to fetch the highest amount ever for a piece of Titanic memorabilia - up to nearly half a million US dollars, the English auction house Henry Aldridge & Son said on Thursday.

For many devotees of the Titanic and of the movies it spawned, the story of the orchestra continuing to play to comfort or distract terrified passengers remains an emotional touchstone, the epitome of courage, calm and defiance in the face of impending doom.

All the musicians drowned in the disaster, including bandleader Wallace Hartley. His body was plucked from the icy waters several days later, with the large leather case in which he carried his violin still strapped to him.

"The band playing on was an incredibly selfless act," said Andrew Aldridge of the auction house. "William Hartley is an iconic individual. That is represented in the instrument."

Whether the one that will go under the hammer today was actually Hartley's violin has been the subject of extensive scrutiny over the last few years.

The auction house is satisfied that it is. The instrument has been examined by experts in several fields and even underwent a CT scan for a closer look at its composition and damage.

Other items that were found with it have been authenticated as belonging to Hartley, including a silver cigar case.