Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Remembering Wallace Hartley June 2, 1878 - April 15, 1912

It's been over 100 years and the story of the Titanic continues to be on the minds of many.  I don't know about you but anytime the Titanic is brought up, I immediately begin to put myself on the ship
and try to imagine how I would react in knowing that my life would soon end.

Wallace Hartley was one of the major heroes on the ship.  He was the bandleader of the Titanic and played a major role in trying to keep the hundreds of passengers at ease knowing that he would soon perish.

Hartley was born in Colne, Lancashire, England.  His dad was a choirmaster and Sunday school superintendent at a Methodist Church.  Wallace is known for his introduction of the hymn "Nearer My God To Thee" to his congregation.

Hartley's violin and case
Wallace became an accomplished violinist and after high school, began working for a bank until he became a member of the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra.  He continued to master his music career and eventually joined the Cunard Line as a musician on various ocean liners including the RMS Mucania, RMS Lusitania and the RMS Mauretania.  He soon joined the White Star Line of ships that changed his status from a crew member to a passenger of the ship.

In 1912, Hartley was assigned to be the bandmaster of the RMS Titanic and because he had a fiancée, he reluctantly took the position even though he would be separated from her for periods of time.  He took the job only because he felt he could move up in status and would enhance his future career possibilities.

During a voyage on April 15, 1912, as the band played and passengers were enjoying themselves, we all know the Titanic hit an iceberg and would soon begin to sink.  Hartley and the other band members continued to play music as women and children were loaded on lifeboats.  Survivors from the tragedy claim Hartley and the band were instrumental in preventing added chaos and keeping the passengers as calm as possible.  Many in the lifeboats claimed to have seen Hartley and the other band members standing on the boat deck and soon saw three of the members washed off the ship and the remaining five were dragged down with the bow of the ship.  A newspaper reported after the tragedy that "the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments "will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea."

Coincidentally, the final song played by the band is said to have been Hartley's hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee"

Wallace Hartley funeral card
HaTwo weeks following the sinking of the Titanic, Hartley's body was recovered and was said to be fully dressed with his music case strapped to his body.  It was returned to England where Wallace's father met the ship and brought his son back to Colne.

Wallace Hartley's funeral (funeral card pictured) was held on May 18, 1912 and is reported that over 1000 people attended the service. It was also speculated between 30000 and 40000 people lined the streets for Hartley's funeral procession.  He was laid to rest in Keighley Road Cemetery in Cole.  His gravesite features a 10 foot headstone in which a violin is carved into the base.

Hartley's home continues to be recognized by tourists and his violin has been on exhibition at Titanic museums.
Hartley's resting place

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