Andre Rieu Nearer My God To Thee
LONDON, UK The missing violin played by the Titanic's bandleader as the liner slowly sank may have been found 99 years later.
"Wallace Hartley and his seven fellow musicians became an enduring part of the Titanic story heroically playing on until waist-deep in water as they disappeared beneath the waves," said Mike Merritt, who revealed the historic find in a story in the Britain Sunday Mirror.
Hartley's violin, a gift from his fiancée Maria Robinson, was reportedly found strapped to his chest in its case when his body was recovered from the icy Atlantic.
However, the violin was never returned to his family and has been missing since his body was found.
"Now, in a remarkable twist, the violin appears to have been found and is undergoing tests at a specialist auction house to ensure its authenticity. But experts are so sure it is Hartley's violin they are planning to take it on a world tour before putting it up for sale next year the centenary of the sinking," wrote Merritt.
It is more than likely to be sold in excess of $12 million according to various news reports.
British Christian author, Steve Turner, who has discovered pictures of the violin, told Merritt that other than retrieving the bow of the ship, this must be the most symbolic artifact of the Titanic sinking ever likely to be sold.
"Everyone concerned has been sworn to secrecy. Other than admitting to me the violin exists and that the photos I saw were genuine, the auctioneers won't be giving out any more information until an announcement is made about its sale," said Merritt.
All eight members of Hartley's band played on as the ship sank 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada, on April 14, 1912. Reports vary as to the last song they played, but most agree it was the poignant hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee."
Merritt added, "Survivors recall the band striking up playful ragtime tunes, including Alexander's Ragtime Band, as the liner began to go down.
"The story became a defining image of British calmness in the face of adversity and was immortalized in the 1997 movie Titanic."
Reports at the time said Hartley, from Colne, Lancashire, England, was found fully dressed still clutching his violin. But the Office of the Provincial Secretary in Nova Scotia did not list it among the effects of Body 224.
"It was not handed to Hartley's father, Albion, who collected his son's body at Liverpool docks after repatriation two years after Hartley and Maria had got engaged," reported Merritt.
Turner said that he found photos of a violin, leather case and sheet music during research for his book "The Band That Played On."
"Someone with a knowledge of the Titanic was trying to authenticate the story. The most convincing thing about the violin, which was in a brown leather case with the initials W. H. H stamped on it, is the inscription on the tail-piece, 'For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement, from Maria'," said Turner.
The story stated that Maria was left bereft by Hartley's death. She moved to Bridlington, East Yorkshire, UK, and never married.
Turner stated that the photos back up claims by the unnamed owner believed to a male relative of Maria's that Maria retrieved it," the story added.
Among evidence is a draft letter to the Nova Scotia authorities in Maria's 1912 diary. It says: "I would be most grateful if you could convey my heartfelt thanks to all who have made possible the return of my late fiancé's violin."
Steve Turner, who has written biographies of Cliff Richard, Johnny Cash and Marvin Gaye, says: "This seemed not only to explain why she wanted it back so badly and why it didn't automatically go to Hartley's parents, but perhaps why Hartley kept it with him."
A spokesman for auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son said: "We are in the process of running a number of tests."