A Titanic Connection at Jigsaw
With the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic next month, Jigsaw on King Edward Street in Leeds’ Victoria Quarter is commemorating a unique connection to the tragedy.
The Jigsaw store is in the premises once occupied by the much loved Collinson’s Restaurant, where a local musician, Wallace Hartley, once played as part of a string quartet. Hartley began working for Cunard in 1909, serving aboard The Lucitania and as band master on The Mauritania, then the most luxurious ship in the world.
Having vowed not to return to sea in order to marry his newly engaged fiancée Maria Robinson, Hartley was persuaded to return one last time when offered the position of band master aboard White Star Line’s fated liner. The prestige this appointment afforded was simply too good to refuse, something that turned out to be a fatal decision.
The tragic events on the night of the 14th of April 1912 are legendary and so too is Wallace’s response to them.
He gathered all the ship’s eight musicians, some of whom had never played together, in the First Class lounge and began to play. As the scale of the disaster became apparent they moved on deck where survivors recalled hearing music as they struggled for their place in the lifeboats.
Legend has it that the band played ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ as the ship went down, though the tune which was actually played is difficult to verify. Two weeks after the disaster Wallace’s body was recovered, still wearing his bandsmen uniform. In his pockets, amongst other items, was a gold fountain pen engraved with his initials and a silver matchbox engraved with the message ‘From Collinson’s Staff Leeds’.
On May the 18th 1912 Wallace’s body was brought back to Colne to be buried. By this time, survivor’s stories of his heroism had spread and he was famous countrywide. Along with his family and friends who mourned that day, over 40,000 people lined the route of the cortege taking him to be buried at the church where he had been choir boy. His fiancée Maria never married.
To mark the 100th Anniversary of Hartley’s death staff at Jigsaw are holding a Tea Party on Sunday 15th April from 11am – 5.00pm, where Collinson’s-style tea and cakes will be served. The Jigsaw store still has original features from Hartley’s time, and visitors will also be able to read about the history of the building as it was when Collinson’s was there, along with details about Hartley’s life. http://www.jigsaw-online.com/