All the musicians aboard the Titanic perished when the ship sank in 1912. They played for as long as possible to help calm the passengers. They went down with the ship and were duly recognized for their heroism. But did you ever wonder what happened to their instruments?
One of the violins played when the Titanic sank was rediscovered in an attic. It was said to be owned by the bandmaster Wallace Hartley who played it while the ship was sinking. It was auctioned off for $1.6 million in 2013.
The Musicians of the Titanic
The eight musicians on the Titanic were booked through an agency from Liverpool. They boarded the ship from Southampton and traveled as second-class passengers. Unlike the rest of the ship’s staff and employees, the musicians were not part of the White Star Line’s payroll. At the time, the CW & FN Black agency from Liverpool booked all musicians on British liners.
The musicians played in two separate groups; a quintet and a trio. The quintet was led by Wallace Hartley, a violinist, and bandmaster. They played at teatime, after dinner, and during Sunday services. The trio of Georges Krins, Roger Bricoux, and Theodore Brailey played at the A La Carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien.
After the Titanic hit the iceberg and started to sink, Hartley, and the rest of the musicians started playing to help keep the passengers calm as they were being loaded onto the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said the musicians played until the very end. Their final tune was the hymn, Nearer, My God to Thee.
Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.Unnamed Survivor of the Titanic
(Source: World Military Bands: The Heritage of Military Bands)
How Was the Violin Recovered?
Henry Aldridge, an auction specialist, says that the violin survived in a leather case strapped onto Wallace Hartley’s body. Hartley’s body was recovered, floating around the site for ten days after the ship sank. When his body was recovered, the violin was brought back to land. The violin was sent to Maria Robinson, Hartley’s fiancée. (Source: BBC News)
Can the Violin Still Be Used?
Unfortunately, the violin can no longer be restored and is considered unplayable.
The sea-corroded instrument, now unplayable, is thought to have belonged to bandmaster Wallace Hartley, who was among the disaster’s more than 1,500 victims.The Associated Press
How Much was the Violin Auctioned For?
While there were questions regarding the violin’s authenticity, it was still put up for auction. Among the clues that led to the authentication of the violin was the engraving that said; For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.
An anonymous British buyer paid $1.6 million for the violin in 2013.
Previously, the priciest Titanic artifact sold was a 32-foot long schematic plan of the ship used in Britain’s official inquiry into the tragedy, which he said fetched $356,000.Henry Aldridge