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Wallace Hartley

Bandmaster on the Titanic

Portrait of Wallace Hartley as a young man.

Born at 92 Greenfield Road, Colne in 1878 (02/Jun/1878), Wallace Hartley was giving solo violin performances by the age of 15 before going on to lead an orchestra in Bridlington.  Pretty soon after that he took up a position with Cunard entertaining passengers on cruises across the Atlantic on such liners as the Mauretania and Lusitania.  By the time he became bandmaster on the Titanic in 1912 he had made about 80 voyages.

It is reported that Wallace and the band played on as the Titanic sank.  As it became apparent just how severe the catastrophe was to be they moved out to the boats and tried to calm the passengers by singing (and/or playing) hymns.  Minutes later the entire band was washed away by a sudden wave as the Titanic made it's last plunge.  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."

Picture of Wallace Hartley's funeral procession as it passes the Town Hall in Colne.

Eventually (2 weeks after the disaster) Wallace's body was recovered by the the cable ship Mackay-Bennett, he was still wearing his bandsman's uniform of brown overcoat, green facings, black boots and green socks.  Strapped to his body was his music box and in his pockets, amongst other things, was a gold fountain pen with his initials W.H.H.   His body was transported back to Colne on the SS Arabic, packed in ice and embalmed.  On May 18, 1912, the body of bandmaster Wallace Hartley was laid to rest in what one newspaper called "pageantry beyond belief."

Picture of the same scene as the funeral procession in 1998.
Colne Town Hall in 1998 (2 July 1998, 17.20 BST).
Same location as the funeral shot above.  Not much change really.

The funeral service took place at the Bethel Chapel to a congregation of over 1000 (the chapel is designed to hold about 700).  Around 40,000 people lined the route of the funeral procession as his rosewood casket made its way to Colne cemetery, led by seven bands.

In 1915 a statue of Wallace was erected just to the side of the Rectory on Albert Road.  The area around the statue has recently been renovated.   The inscription reads:


Bandmaster of the RMS Titanic who perished in the foundering of that vessel April 15th 1912

Erected by voluntary contributions to commemorate the heroism of a native of this town.

Commemerative bust of Wallace Hartley.


Picture of Wallace Hartley's tomb stone.

He was laid to rest in the family tomb.   The inscription reads:

In Loving Memory of Wallace Henry,
The beloved son of
Albion and Elizabeth
Formerly of Colne
Who lost his life in the
S.S. Titanic Disaster
on April 15th, 1912,
Aged 33 years.
and was interred
on May 18th 1912.

Below the inscription is a page from Sir Arthur Sullivan's setting of "Nearer My God To Thee".   The name of the tune is "Propior Deo".

In June 1998, Jonathan Evans Jones, the actor (also a professional violinist!) who played Wallace Hartley in James Cameron's film "The Titanic", helped launch the new tourist guide to Pendle, "PENDLE Discovery Guide" - available from tourist centers across the UK, but free copies can be obtained from Barnoldswick Tourist Information Centre (+44 1282 666704).

Picture of 7 of the 8 members of the band.
Top Row, Left to Right: Fred Clarke of Liverpool and P.C. Taylor of Clapham.

Middle Row, Left to Right: G. Krins of Brixton, Wallace H. Hartley of Dewsbury, the Bandmaster and Theodore Brailey, of Notting Hill.

Bottom Row, Left to Right: Jock Hume of Dumfries and J.W. Woodward of Headington, Oxon.

Roger Bricoux, the cellist, was missing from this photo.


Thanks to:

Christine Bradley, Reference Librarian, Colne Library - for lots of detailed information.
Ursula Schairer
for corrections and additional information.


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