- Category : Musician - Violinist
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Small (43)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Consciousness 2
Wallace Henry Hartley (2 June 1878 – 15 April 1912) was an English violinist and bandleader on the RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage. He became famous for leading the eight member band as the ship sank on 15 April 1912. He died in the sinking.
Life and career
Wallace Hartley was born and raised in Colne, Lancashire, England. Hartley's father, Albion Hartley, was the choirmaster and Sunday school superintendent at Bethel Independent Methodist Chapel, where the family attended worship services. Hartley himself introduced the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee" to the congregation. Wallace studied at Colne's Methodist day school, sang in Bethel's choir and learned violin from a fellow congregation member.
After leaving school, Hartley started work with the Craven & Union Bank in Colne. When his family moved to Huddersfield, Hartley joined the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1903, he left home to join the municipal orchestra in Bridlington, where he stayed for six years. He later moved to Dewsbury, West Yorkshire and in 1909, he joined the Cunard Line as a musician, serving on the ocean liners RMS Lucania, RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania.
Whilst serving on the Mauretania, the employment of Cunard musicians was transferred to the music agency C.W. & F.N. Black, which supplied musicians for Cunard and the White Star Line. This transfer changed Hartley's onboard status, as he was no longer counted as a member of the crew, but rather as a passenger, albeit one accommodated in second-class accommodation at the agency's expense. It later transpired that neither the shipping company nor the music agency had insured the musicians, with each claiming it was the other's responsibility.
In April 1912, Hartley was assigned to be the bandmaster for the White Star Line ship RMS Titanic. He was at first hesitant to again leave his fiancée, Maria Robinson, to whom he had recently proposed, but Hartley decided that working on the maiden voyage of the Titanic would give him possible contacts for future work.
Apart from his short tenure as leader of the band on the Titanic, Hartley is also known for introducing the tritone substitution to ballroom dance music.
Sinking of the Titanic
After the Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink, Hartley and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. None of the band members survived the sinking and the story of them playing to the end became a popular legend. One survivor who clambered aboard 'Collapsible A' claimed to have seen Hartley and his band standing just behind the first funnel, by the Grand Staircase. He went on to say that he saw three of them washed off while the other five held on to the railing on top the Grand Staircase's deckhouse, only to be dragged down with the bow, just before Hartley exclaimed, "Gentlemen, I bid you farewell!" A newspaper at the time reported "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."
Though the final song played by the band is unknown, "Nearer, My God, to Thee" has gained popular acceptance. Former bandmates claimed that Hartley had said he would play either "Nearer, My God, to Thee" or "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" if he was ever on a sinking ship, but Walter Lord's book A Night to Remember popularised wireless officer Harold Bride's account of hearing the song "Autumn".
After the sinking
Hartley's body was recovered by the Mackay–Bennett almost two weeks after the sinking, reportedly found "fully dressed with his violin strapped to his body". He was transferred to the Arabic and sent to England. Hartley's funeral took place in Colne on 18 May 1912. One thousand people attended his funeral, while 40,000 lined the route of his funeral procession.
Hartley is buried in Colne, where a 10-foot headstone, containing a carved violin at its base, was erected in his honour.
A memorial to Hartley, topped by his bust, was erected in 1915 outside the Albert Street Methodist Church in Colne where Hartley began his musical career. Hartley's large Victorian terraced house in West Park Street, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, bears a blue plaque to remind passers-by that this was the bandleader's home.
As of 2001, Hartley's name was still being used when naming new streets and housing in the town of Colne. In 2008, the pub chain J D Wetherspoon named a newly opened pub, (the building having been the long-standing King's Head Hotel up until the mid-1990s), in Colne after the bandleader.
In March 2013, after two years of in-depth forensic testing, it was announced that it had been determined a violin found in a British man's attic inside a leather case with the initials "W. H. H." was the instrument used by Hartley, who according to lore played, "Nearer My God to Thee" during the ship's last moments. The identification was helped by an engraving on the violin which his fiancee (Maria Robinson) had placed on the instrument in 1910 which read: 'For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.' Further tests by a silver expert from the Gemological Association of Great Britain confirmed that the plate on the base of the violin was original and that the metal engraving done on behalf of Maria Robinson was contemporary with those made in 1910. Finally, while researching the origins of the violin, the auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son, and a biographer of Wallace Hartley discovered the transcript of a telegram sent to the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia, Canada, dated July 19, 1912 in the diary of Hartley's grieving fiance, Ms. Robinson, in which she stated:
"I would be most grateful if you could convey my heartfelt thanks to all who have made possible the return of my late fiance's violin."
This telegram establishes that Hartley's fiancee did receive the returned violin within three months of the Titanic's sinking in April 1912.