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The band that played on

The story of “the band that played on” is one of the most poignant to come from the Titanic tragedy.

This weekend just gone, the violin that belonged to the orchestra’s leader, Wallace Hartley, sold for $1.7m (click here to view the top 10 Titanic items ever auctioned courtesy of Wikicollecting).

The sale is a testament to the enduring fascinating with these brave men who sacrificed their own lives to calm their fellow passengers.

But what was the last song they played as the ship went down?

Folklore decrees Nearer, My God to Thee.

Both US and British survivors stated that they could hear the strains of the hymn at some point, yet it commonly had a different tune depending on whether it was the British or American version.

Harold Bride, a wireless operator who survived the catastrophe, was quoted as saying: “From Aft came the tunes of the band. It was a ragtime tune, I don’t know what. Then there was autumn”. This is thought to refer to Songe d’Automne, a slow waltz that was very popular at the time.

A 1902 hymn by Lewis Carey has been suggested as a third possibility.

Titanic band

Only three bodies were discovered

The truth will remain a mystery. What is known is that the band was forced to stop playing some 30 minutes before the Titanic slipped completely under, when the ship’s slope became too steep to continue.

With all the lifeboats gone, the band and the remaining passengers huddled together on the stern until the ship broke in two, condemning them all to their fate.

Of the eight members of the orchestra, just three bodies were recovered.



‘The dingo stays here’

Did you see that Jane Austen’s ring will be staying in the UK after all?

The Jane Austen House Museum managed to get together the required £149,000 ($238,000) to keep the ring on British shores, after US singer Kelly Clarkson had “bought” it at auction last year.

Clarkson had reckoned without the might of the British government, which from time to time slaps temporary export bans on some “national treasures” that look like they’re about to leave the country.

The dingo leaves the UK on November 5 unless a new owner is found

Stubbs’ dingo leaves the UK on November 5 unless a new owner is found

The bans, which last just a few months, are intended to provide museums and institutions with sufficient time to purchase the items. In this case, it worked.

“The export licensing controls for objects of cultural interest are designed to balance the need to keep nationally important objects in this country, the rights of owners and the encouragement of a thriving art trade,” says England’s Arts Council, which advises the government on these matters.

The current collection of items in limbo makes for interesting reading, and suggests that someone at the Arts Council, or perhaps Britain’s minister for culture, Ed Vaizey, has a particular penchant for Australian animals.

Here’s the list:

  • Two paintings by George Stubbs, depicting a kangaroo and a dingo, respectively.
  • A photo album containing snaps by British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.
  • Rembrandt van Rijn’s ‘Rembrandt Laughing’.
  • Letters and documents from British army officer James Wolfe.
  • A Bentley Blower 4.5 litre racing car.
  • A collection of works pertaining to Thomas Baines’ North Australian Expedition from 1855 to 1857.

When we get word on the dingo’s new home, you’ll be the first to know.


Tibetan treasures reveal links to The Great Game

Sometimes even the most run of the mill collectible can reveal a winding back-story that will continue to fascinate long into the future.

On August 10, a group of photographs, a bashed-up old teapot and two Buddhist statues appeared at auction – all fairly standard consignments at a provincial auction house.Tibetan, Flog It, statue, Henry Aldridge, Expedition, Younghusband

They had first appeared on the BBC TV show Flog It!, where experts confirmed that they were of little value.

However, come sale day, they rocketed to a staggering £140,000 – and it’s no surprise, once you hear of their fascinating past.

The items all originate from the 1904 “expedition” led by British Colonel Francis Younghusband to Tibet, which was actually a thinly disguised temporary invasion of the country.

British, Tibet, Expedition, Younghusband

Tibetan and British officers “negotiating”

The expedition has become infamous, with thousands of Tibetans massacred and officials forced to sign the Great Britain and Tibet Convention, allowing certain trade advantages and effectively converting Tibet into a British protectorate.

As such, any item relating to the expedition has become highly collectible.

But what’s more fascinating is the wider context of the expedition. It took place during a time when Britain and Russia were engaged in what has become known as The Great Game.

A political cartoon created during The Great Game

A political cartoon created during The Great Game

The Great Game was a struggle for empirical power in Central Europe, where adventurers, soldiers  and diplomats were sent to protect the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, India.

Interestingly, despite a truce between the superpowers for a short while, the Cold War became known as The Great Game II – some things never change!



Poll results: Your favourite British TV antiques expert

The competition among the weekday antiques programmes here in the UK is fierce.

So fierce, in fact, that when we asked, “Who is your favourite British TV antiques expert?”, there was a three-way tie for the lead.

Dickinson - no votes

Dickinson – no votes

Here are the top four:

The much missed David Barby – 30%

Eric Knowles (Antiques Roadshow)  – 30%

Tim Wonnacott (Bargain Hunt) – 30%

David Battie (Antiques Roadshow ) – 10%

And then there is poor David Dickinson – the bronzed Adonis of daytime TV. Perhaps his time in the sun has been and gone – polling precisely 0% of the vote.


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