Authenticity of violin sparks differing historian opinions

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Claims that the violin Wallace Hartley played on the night the Titanic sank has been scientifically proven to be the one have been met with differing opinions by two Pendle historians.

Last week, it was announced that after extensive government laboratory testing, the violin discovered in an attic of a Bridlington home was “beyond reasonable doubt” the one Colne band leader Mr Hartley played on that fateful night in April 1912.

In 2006, Henry Aldridge and Son Auctioneers, in Devizes, Wiltshire, were approached by the owner wanting to sell the rosewood violin with silver tail piece inscribed with the words “For Wallace, on the occasion of our engagement, Maria”.

The violin is also complete with a leather case embossed with the initials “W. H. H.”.

But Nigel Hampson, Curator at the Titanic in Lancashire Museum in Colne, has said to claim the violin was the one “is the worst form of manipulation”.

He said: “The historical record does not show that Wallace was recovered with his violin strapped to his body - it actually proves the opposite.

“The inventory of items recovered on Wallace’s body makes no mention whatsoever of a violin or music case or anything similar being found with him.

“We are supposed to believe that when the ship sinks and everyone - the band included, are fighting for their lives, Wallace is more concerned with the fate of his instrument than his life?

“We are also supposed to believe that the violin survives almost two weeks in the sea and emerges intact?

“This violin clearly is a Wallace Hartley instrument - but to claim that it is the violin, that he had with him on the Titanic is preposterous and is not backed up by historical record.”

Darran Ward, who lives in Colne, and is a keen Titanic fanatic, published a book entitled “Playing to the End - The Life of Wallace Hartley” last year. He says it is “exciting news”.

He said: “Seven years of research had to make sure of its authenticity. I’m really pleased. This process was exhausting and I really believe it is the one.

“When he was brought aboard, it could have been pushed to one side and later returned to Maria. Why is it so damaged and have all moisture stains? She would’ve looked after it extremely well.

“There are some credible reasons that it could very much be the one. I agree that with Nigel that the animal glue would have come apart in the water.

“But there’s a letter in among documentation found where it suggests it has been taken to a violin restorers.”

The violin will go on display next month in Belfast and it is anticipated it will go to auction in the future, the date of which is unknown yet.