THE Lancashire Titanic Museum has appealed for help to buy one of only three items in the world signed by the ship’s bandleader Wallace Hartley.

Nigel Hampson, curator of the museum, now situated in Samlesbury Hall, said he needed to raise £5,000 by August to purchase a Happy New Year card with Mr Hartley’s signature, which dates back 103 years.

Mr Hartley, who was born and raised in Colne, died when the famous ship sank on April 15, 1912. The greeting card is believed to have been sent by Mr Hartley to an anonymous nurse who looked after him when he was seriously ill during the winter of 1911.

Mr Hampson, who moved his museum from Colne to Samlesbury last year, described the artefact as ‘very, very unique’.

He said: “We have already got it on loan at the museum at the moment. The owner is a Yorkshireman who is looking to sell it later this year and he has given us first refusal on it.

“At an auction it could fetch considerably more but the owner is very heritage-minded. The £5,000 figure is what he paid for it 22 years ago and all he wants is to recoup that investment.

“There will be conditions to say that it never goes out of Lancashire, is always on public display, and that we never sell it.”

Mr Hartley, who is buried in Colne’s Keighley Road cemetery, had a serious bout of ill health in 1911 which saw a private nurse appointed to look after him.

Mr Hampson said: “The card is addressed to the nurse and underneath the Happy New Year banner is it clearly signed by Wallace Henry Hartley.

“Our loan on it expires in August and we are hoping that there is a business out there in Lancashire which can sponsor it, or a community group willing to fundraise to keep it on pubilc display.

“We want to make sure this stays in Lancashire and doesn’t disappear into a private collection.”