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Titanic Bandmaster Letter: Wallace Hartley Paper Sells For £93,000

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A letter written by the bandmaster of the Titanic who carried on playing as the doomed ship sank has sold at auction for £93,000.

Wallace Hartley, 33, has became a key figure of the disaster as - together with his seven other band members - he carried on playing until the very last moments.

The violinist, who travelled as a second-class passenger on Titanic, wrote a letter to his parents as the ship set off from Southampton on April 10, 1912.

wallace hartley

Part of the memorial to Hartley in the Lancashire town of Colne

Experts estimated that the letter would fetch around £50,000 but a bidding frenzy saw the hammer go down at £93,000 at Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, Wiltshire on Saturday.

Hartley, from Colne in Lancashire, wrote: "Just a line to say we have got away all right. It's been a bit of a rush but I am just getting a little settled.

"This is a fine ship & there ought to be plenty of money on her. I've missed coming home very much & it would have been nice to have seen you all if only for an hour or two, but I couldn't manage it.

"We have a fine band & the boys seem very nice. I have had to buy some linen & I sent my washing home today by post. I shall probably arrive home on the Sunday morning.

"We are due here on the Saturday. I'm glad mother's foot is better."

titanic letter

The letter

The band, and Hartley in particular, have been depicted as the ship's heroes in virtually every genre, including postcards, song sheets, books, stage and films, for carrying on playing while the Titanic went down.

Titanic left Southampton on April 10 1912 on the start of a journey that ended in tragedy in the cold North Atlantic four days later, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

Incredibly, Hartley's letter to his parents is mentioned in a newspaper interview with his mother Elizabeth in the Dewsbury News on April 27 1912.

It is written on adjoining sheets of on-board Titanic stationary with company watermark and is hand-dated by Hartley on April 10 1912.

The note also bears the red embossed White Star Line house burgee.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: "We are unaware of any other surviving letter written by Hartley on board the ship.

"Clearly, this letter which mentions the band and alludes to the wealth on-board the ship - implying that some of it would make its way to the band in the form of gratuities - elevates this letter to perhaps the most desirable and important on-board Titanic letter extant."

Hartley did not survive the sinking ship and his body was later recovered and returned to his home town of Colne, where he received a large funeral.

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Wallace Hartley: Titanic bandmaster letter sells for £93000