THE violin reputedly played by the Titanic’s bandmaster as the ill-fated liner sank, broke a world record today when it sold for £900,000.
Wallace Hartley has become part of the ship’s legend after leading his fellow musicians in playing as the doomed vessel went down, most famously the hymn Nearer My God To Thee.
Hartley and his seven fellow band members all died in the tragedy in 1912, in which 1,500 people were killed after the ship hit an iceberg.
His violin, which had been a gift from his fiancee Maria Robinson, was apparently found in a case strapped to his body when it was recovered from the icy Atlantic waters.
Its re-emergence in 2006, when it was reportedly discovered in an attic in Yorkshire, prompted heated debate over its authenticity.
Titanic specialist auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son insist nearly seven subsequent years of research and tests have proved it to be the genuine article.
Now the violin - accompanied by a leather luggage case initialled W. H.H. - went under the hammer with a host of other items from the ship at the public auction in Devizes, Wiltshire.
The violin had a reserve price of between £200,000 and £300,000 and was expected to reach as much as £400,000 - however no one expected the instrument to fetch nearly £1 million.
The previous record sale saw a 32-foot plan of the Titanic used in the inquiry into the sinking in 1912 fetch more than £220,000 two years ago.
The violin has been on exhibition since May at Titanic Branson and Titanic Pigeon Forge in the United States, the largest Titanic museums in the world where more than 315,000 viewed it and later at Titanic Belfast, the award winning visitor attraction in Northern Ireland.
Earlier this week, Andrew Aldridge, a valuer with the auctioneer, took the violin to Mr Hartley’s hometown of Dewsbury, Yorkshire.