GEOFF CRAMBIE: Wallace Hartley and the sinking of the Titanic

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Welcome to all our readers to our very first column of 2011 and here we present an iconic image of what is the most famouse sea-faring vessel of all time. Yes indeed, captured here on an ultra-rare postcard, is the historic White Star Line Royal Mail ship, “Titanic”, as she looked full steam ahead before those tragic events unfolded on April 15th, 1912.

Inserted on the card is a photo of the Colne-born heroic bandmaster who secured the admiration of the world as he continued to lead the band on the RMS Titanic as she slowly sank beneath the waves. Wallace Henry Hartley, seen here in an exceptional portrait, was just 33 as he lost his life on that fateful night in the North Atlantic Ocean. Seen along the bottom of the postcard is Wallace’s signature which is, along with the Sioux Indian chief, Crazy horse and the American author, J.D. Salinger, classed as one of the world’s rarest autographs of modern times.

My very own Wallace Hartley signature was brought back to bonnie Colne from the London Maritime Auction at Christie’s salesrooms in South Kensington for the price of £2,875 in May 2000. The superb, copper-plate, black Indian ink signature, was signed by Wallace on a Christmas card in December 1911 and was valued on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow at Blackpool in April 2009 for £8,500!

I now have Wallace’s signature kept in our local bank vault along with my other rarities and it is only brought out to show local children on my visits to schools to tell them of the long history of our town.

Of the 2,228 people on the Titanic that terrible night, 1,523 lost their lives due to hitting a towering iceberg. Today, almost a century on, Wallace Hartley’s name lives on as a truly immortal 20th Century hero.