Letter to Dewsbury from Titanic band leader goes to auction

Wallace Hartley letter from Titanic
Wallace Hartley letter from Titanic

A LETTER home to Dewsbury from doomed Titanic bandleader Wallace Hartley has gone under the hammer at auction.

Bidding for the rare item started yesterday morning at auctioneers in America with a minimum bid of $5,000.

BAND LEADER: Wallace Hartley.

BAND LEADER: Wallace Hartley.

In his only letter to his parents from the ill-fated liner, the heroic bandleader writes on April 10, 1912: “This is a fine ship…We have a fine band…I shall probably arrive home on the Sunday morning.”

But that was not to be as Hartley and his seven bandsmen went down with Titanic on April 15.

The letter was written on Hartley’s first day aboard Titanic. He tells his family in Dewsbury that he had missed coming home ‘very much’. Poignantly, he also says he ‘hopes mother’s foot is better’.

A spokesman for RR Auctions in New Hampshire said: “Few accounts of selflessness are more moving than that of Hartley and his bandmates.

“He led his fellow musicians in what would become the last melodies many of the 1,517 casualties would hear.

“Hartley and his crew played on until the Titanic succumbed to the overwhelming force of the Atlantic, watching and playing as over 700 men, women, and children passed by to safety.

“Witnesses reported seeing the band swept into the ocean and his last words to his band are reputed to have been, ‘Gentlemen, I bid you farewell.’”

It is thought the band played the hymn Nearer My God To Thee as the ship went down.

A plaque in honour of the 33-year-old is on the house in West Park Street where he lived as an adult, his family having moved to Dewsbury from Colne.

The letter is among more than 100 other Titanic items at the US auction, such as a crewman’s payslip for £5.68 for six days work.

l A special event to mark the Titanic centenary is being held at Dewsbury Minster this evening, featuring a film, music and themed refreshments.

It starts at 7pm and admission is £5 for Friends of Dewsbury Minster, £6 everyone else.