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Titanic bandmaster's violin on display in Belfast

The iconic instrument belonged to Wallace Hartley, who famously continued playing alongside his fellow musicians as the vessel sank in 1912.

Image: Peter Morrison/AP/Press Association Images

THE VIOLIN PLAYED by the bandmaster of the Titanic as the liner sank beneath the waves is now on display at Titanic Belfast.

The instrument belonging to Wallace Hartley was found strapped to his body after he drowned with some 1,500 others on board the supposedly unsinkable ship in 1912.

It carries an inscription from the 34-year-old’s fiancee to mark their engagement.

For decades the violin was believed lost, but it was found in the attic of a house in northwest England in 2006.

It will be displayed at the Belfast exhibition from until 13 October before it goes to auction.

“This could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for visitors to see one of the world’s most famous and most valuable Titanic artefacts,” said the museum’s chief executive Tim Husbands.

The Titanic was built in Belfast and set sail from Southampton, southern England, for New York on 10 April, 1912.

The 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 15 April after hitting an iceberg.

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

The Titanic musicians play on; a scene from ‘A Night To Remember’ (1955) — regarded as the most historically accurate film depiction of the tragedy. (Youtube: OBrasilo)

He was given the maple, spruce and ebony violin by his fiancee Maria Robinson to mark their engagement in 1910. She had a silver plaque fixed to the instrument engraved with the words: “For Wallace, on the occasion of our engagement. From Maria.”

It is now thought that the instrument was inside a leather bag that was found strapped to his body 10 days after the sinking, and was then passed to Robinson.

Robinson never married and after her death in 1939, her sister donated the violin to her local Salvation Army band, where it passed into the hands of a music teacher and then to the unnamed owner in whose house it was discovered in Lancashire, northwest England.

After seven years of testing including MRI scans, researchers said in March this year that the instrument was genuine.

- © AFP, 2013

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