16 Mar 2013

The band plays on: Titanic violin for auction

10:19 pm on 16 March 2013

A violin thought to be the one played by the band leader of the Titanic as it sank is genuine, according to a seven-year investigation by auctioneers.

Wallace Hartley and his orchestra famously played on as the ship sank in 1912 and were among the 1500 who died, the BBC reports.

In 2006, Titanic specialist auction house Henry Aldridge and Son in Wiltshire were approached by the violin's owner who wanted to sell it.

Experts commissioned by the auction house have confirmed it was Mr Hartley's.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge says they are confident that "beyond reasonable doubt this was Wallace Hartley's violin".

"The silver fish plate on the violin along with the other items it was with suggested it was either authentic or an extremely elaborate hoax.

"Everything needed to be researched properly and the correct experts had to be commissioned."

The tests were carried out by a range of specialists including the government Forensic Science Service which concluded the "corrosion deposits on it were considered compatible with immersion in sea water".

Wallace Hartley's body was recovered about 10 days after the doomed liner sank.

The violin was not listed among the inventory of items found with him, though several newspaper reports from the time said he had been found "fully dressed with his violin strapped to his body".

There have been various theories about what happened to the instrument which range from it floating away to being stolen by someone involved in handling the bodies of the deceased.

A violin was returned to Wallace Hartley's fiancee Maria Robinson, in Bridlington in East Yorkshire, and a transcript of a telegram dated 19 July 1912 to Canada's Provincial of Nova Scotia was found in her diary.

It said: "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."

Craig Sopin, 55, who lives in Philadelphia, US, and owns one of the world's largest collections of Titanic memorabilia, says:

"As far as Titanic memorabilia is concerned it is the most important piece that has ever come up and that includes artefacts recovered from the seabed such as the crow's nest bell."

The violin, thought to be worth a six-figure sum, is the property of an unidentified individual in Lancashire.

It is due to go on display at the Belfast City Hall in April.

No date has yet been set to auction it.