Arthur Lancaster’s tribute violin: Created in memory of Wallace Hartley
Wallace Hartley was the bandleader of the small orchestra on board RMS Titanic. All the band members were lost in the sinking. Wallace was just thirty three at the time and had just become engaged. (The average age of the musicians at the time of the sinking was just twenty six).
Wallace had been born in Colne, Lancashire, and had played the violin in the orchestra there. A friend did also; Arthur Lancaster.
When Hartley didn’t return from the Titanic’s maiden voyage, Arthur decided to make a violin in honour of his late friend.
It was a beautiful piece of work and as an instrument, had a fabulous tone. He added a small image of the Titanic and a tiny photograph of Hartley.
He gave the violin to the Colne Orchestra. The idea was that every year, it would be presented to the best violinist who would keep it until the following year. But at some time in the nineteen twenties, it was lost.
It was rediscovered in the nineteen fifties, restored and sold. Then in 1974, a mysterious stranger appeared at a Colne orchestra rehearsal. This anonymous person had the violin and presented it to the orchestra saying that it should be played annually in Wallace Hartley’s memory.
The violin remained with the orchestra, even when it became the East Lancashire Youth Orchestra and it was, in accordance with the stranger’s wishes, played every year. It fell into disrepair though but was fully restored in 2010.
What no-one seemed to realise was that Arthur Lancaster, who had made the violin, had a son named Seth. He was a cellist and at the age of twenty one, was offered a job on the Titanic. Just a few days before the maiden voyage, he was transferred to another ship. He arrived in New York on April 19th, the day after the Carpathia arrived with the Titanic survivors.
Many of Seth’s friends had not known about the transfer and when the Titanic sank, assumed that he had been on board.
When the violin was restored in 2010, it was discovered that there was a message inside the instrument. It could only have been written by its maker. The message had remained hidden for almost a hundred years.
In memory of my friend Mr Wallace Hartley, the heroic leader of the ill-fated Titanic. Life is dear to those we love. Hoping that this violin will be as pure in tone as my friend was pure in heart.