'Titanic' violin to go on sale
The violin reputedly played by the Titanic's bandmaster as the ill-fated liner sank is expected to fetch a world record fee when it goes on sale today.
Wallace Hartley has become part of the ship's legend after leading his fellow musicians in playing as the doomed vessel went down, most famously the hymn Nearer My God To Thee.
Hartley and his seven fellow band members all died in the tragedy in 1912, in which 1,500 people were killed after the ship hit an iceberg.
His violin, which had been a gift from his fiancee Maria Robinson, was apparently found in a case strapped to his body when it was recovered from the icy Atlantic waters.
Its re-emergence in 2006, when it was reportedly discovered in an attic in Yorkshire, prompted heated debate over its authenticity.
Titanic specialist auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son insist nearly seven subsequent years of research and tests have proved it to be the genuine article.
Now the violin - accompanied by a leather luggage case initialed W. H. H. - is being put up for sale along with a host of items from the ship at the public auction in Devizes, Wiltshire.
Andrew Aldridge, a valuer with the auctioneer, said worldwide interest in the instrument meant it was likely to break the world record fee for a single piece of memorabilia from the Titanic.
The violin has a reserve price of between £200,000 and £300,000 but is expected to fetch as much as £400,000, he said.
Mr Aldridge said: "It symbolises love, with a young man strapping it to his body because it was an engagement present from his fiancee.
"It also epitomises bravery. He knew there would be no lifeboats.
"It symbolises everything that's good about people, not just Wallace Hartley and his band, but all the men, women and children who lost their lives."
The previous record sale saw a 32 foot plan of the Titanic used in the inquiry into the sinking of the ship in 1912 fetch more than £220,000 two years ago.
The violin has been on exhibition since May at Titanic Branson and Titanic Pigeon Forge in the United States, the largest Titanic museums in the world where more than 315,000 viewed it and later at Titanic Belfast, the award winning visitor attraction in Northern Ireland.
Mr Aldridge also took the violin to Mr Hartley's hometown of Dewsbury, Yorkshire this week ahead of its sale.
"I hope it stays in the UK and goes on exhibition," he said.
"There have buyers in the UK but also in the US and Asia so it could go anywhere."