The Titanic in Lancashire Museum has poured a bucket of iced water on widespread claims that Wallace Hartley’s violin was saved from the Titanic, an assertion made by British auctioneers and repeated by much of the world’s press.
Nigel Hampson, curator of the Colne museum, says: ‘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.’
Similar dismissals are heard from Titanic experts in the US. Karen B. Kamuda, vice president of the Titanic Historical Society, said she does not believe Hartley’s violin was ever recovered at sea. Detailed records were made of all of the personal effects found on each body brought to Halifax, she said. ‘Every February or March as the anniversary nears, there will be an article in the Daily Mail or Telegraph and it gets picked up the wires like this – a supposed Titanic artifact is found and its provenance can be interpreted very loosely,’ Kamuda said.
My own doubts are more practical. Could a leather violin case in 1912 have afforded enough protection in raging waves to preserve a violin intact? Would a modern case do so? Anyone care to try it out?