AN auctioneer has played down reports in the national press this week that a violin discovered could be the one Wallace Hartley played the night the Titanic sank.
Alan Aldridge, of Henry Aldridge and Son Auctioneers, from Devizes, Wiltshire, is renowned for handling Titanic artefacts and has urged caution until further laboratory test results are known.
A book released last year revealed the story of the violin which had an inscription on it from Mr Hartley’s fiancée Maria Robertson.
An unsubstantiated report in a Nova Scotia newspaper at the time of the sinking said Mr Hartley from Colne was found with his violin strapped to his chest but the whereabouts of it have remained a mystery.
Mr Aldridge said he doesn’t know whether the owner of the violin, who is no relation to Mr Hartley but a distant relative of his fiancee, will decide to sell it or not in such a prestigious anniversary year, but thinks it’s more likely go on display at an exhibition somewhere.
He also hopes that when the results of scientific testing are known, the story will be complete either way just in time to make it into a new book on the Titanic due to be published next year.
Mr Aldridge said: “At the moment it’s a non-story. I’ve spent four years researching it and had experts running tests on it. Basically we are hoping for the final scientific results some time this year.
“Obviously I hope it will be Wallace’s and the news will rock the world, but if it isn’t, we’ll all cry with sadness.
“It’s a fair chance it is Wallace’s as the case has his initials on it and on the tail piece are the words ‘For Wallace, on the occasion of our engagement, Maria’.
“The case also had straps on which are seven feet long which would’ve been long enough to strap around his chest. Whether it’s the one he took on the ship though, we don’t know. It’s a lovely story anyway.”
Nigel Hampson, Curator at the Titanic in Lancashire Museum, Colne, is familiar with the story and is sceptical.
He said: “I absolutely, definitely and categorically think it’s not the Wallace Hartley violin.
“I don’t have a problem with it being a Wallace Hartley violin as all professional musicians will own several instruments, but I have three particular problems with the story.
“Firstly, musical instruments in those days were stuck together with animal glue and Wallace spent two weeks in the water before he was found. The glue would have just dissolved in that time and fallen apart.
“Secondly, everybody recovered was very carefully inventoried. There was no mention of violin or case but there was everything down to the amount of money found in his pocket.
“Thirdly, if Wallace Hartley had been recovered with his violin, where has it been for the last 100 years? People would’ve known about it.
“There were five violins made by a chap called Lancaster from Colne after Wallace’s death. One is used by the town’s orchestra, another is owned by a private collector and three have disappeared.
“They all had an oil marking on them and the violin in question has one of these marks too. It could be one of those.
“This is only my thought but I wonder if Maria got hold of one of these and innocently added the silver inscription in memory of Wallace and that has come into the hands of the current owner.”