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Culture

Titanic band leader's violin fetches record €1.06 million

© AFP

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-10-20

The violin played by the Titanic's band leader to calm passengers as the ocean liner sank was auctioned in England on Saturday for £900,000 (€1.06 million), a world record for memorabilia from the famously doomed ship.

The violin played by the bandmaster of the Titanic to calm passengers as it sank sold at auction for £900,000 ($1.45 million, 1.06 million euros) on Saturday, a world record fee for memorabilia from the doomed liner.

The German violin, dating from circa 1880, was given to bandmaster Wallace Hartley as an engagement gift from his fiancée Maria Robinson. Its tail plate is engraved “For WALLACE on the occasion of our ENGAGEMENT from MARIA”. ©Henry Aldridge

The instrument, found strapped to the body of Wallace Hartley after he drowned along with 1,500 others in the disaster in 1912, was sold at Titanic specialist auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, southwest England.

The instrument carries an inscription from the 33-year-old’s fiancee Maria Robinson to mark their engagement and was on sale with its leather luggage case, initialed W.H.H, in which it was found.

For decades the violin was believed lost but it was found in the attic of a house in northwest England in 2006, prompting a debate about its authenticity, which experts only recently resolved.

Bidding started at just £50 for the violin, but within a few minutes it had passed the previous world record of £220,000 for a Titanic piece as competition between four telephone bidders hotted up.

There were gasps from the 200 people at the auction house as the price reached £350,000 and then a tense silence as the battle for the instrument narrowed to two telephone bidders.

It took just 10 minutes to sell it for its final price.

Hartley’s band played the hymn “Nearer, My God, To Thee” to try to calm passengers while they climbed into lifeboats as the Titanic sank beneath the icy waves in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912, after hitting an iceberg.

Hartley and his seven fellow band members all died after choosing to play on.

A scene from James Cameron's Titanic movie with the violin

(AFP)

Date created : 2013-10-19

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