Person:Wallace Hartley (1)

Wallace Henry Hartley, English Violinist/Band Leader
d.15 April 1912 Atlantic Ocean
m. 24 September 1874
  1. Wallace Henry Hartley, English Violinist/Band Leader1878 - 1912
Facts and Events
Name Wallace Henry Hartley, English Violinist/Band Leader
Gender Male
Birth[1] 2 June 1878 Colne, Lancashire, England
Death[1] 15 April 1912 Atlantic Ocean

About Wallace Henry Hartley

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, on Burnley Road where the family attended worship services.[1] Albion 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 to play the violin from a fellow congregation member.[2][3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

In April 1912, Hartley was assigned to be the bandmaster for the White Star Line ship RMS Titanic.[3] 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.

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 on the boat deck, near the entrance to the grand staircase, near the base of the second funnel. 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, as 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 "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past" if he were ever on a sinking ship, but Walter Lord's book A Night to Remember (1955) popularised wireless officer Harold Bride's account of hearing the song "Autumn". If it were "Nearer, My God, to Thee", it is uncertain which version Hartley used. His father used the "Propior Deo" version, by Arthur Sullivan, at church, and his family were certain that he would have used that version.[4] It is this tune's opening notes that appear on Hartley's memorial[5] and that were played at his funeral.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
  2.   General Register Office. The National Archives (abbreviated TNA). 1881 Census Schedules for England and Wales, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands: . (Kew, Richmond, Greater London TW9 4DU, United Kingdom).

    Name: Wallace H. Hartley
    Age: 2
    Estimated birth year: abt 1879
    Relationship to Head: Son
    Father: Albion Hartley
    Mother: Elizabeth Hartley
    Gender: Male
    Where born: Colne, Lancashire, England
    Civil Parish: Colne
    County/Island: Lancashire
    Country: England
    Street address: 92 Greenfield Rd
    Employment status:
    View image
    Registration district: Burnley
    ED, institution, or vessel: 22
    Piece: 4163
    Folio: 47
    Page Number: 11
    Household Members: Name Age
    Albion Hartley 30
    Elizabeth Hartley 29
    Mary E. Hartley 3
    Wallace H. Hartley 2