31st May 2009. Surviving the Titanic.
Millvina Dean was ten weeks old when she was let down in a bag from the sinking Titanic, being one of the first to escape. Surviving after being picked up by the Carpathia, with her 32 year old mother, and brother, she lived to be 97 before dying Today in Southampton.
She had the dubious honour of being the last living survivor of the disaster, after Barbara Dainton had died aged 96, in 2007.(1)
Ironically the Dean Family emigrating, as steerage, to America, weren’t originally scheduled to sail on the Titanic, but owing to a coal strike were transferred from another ship of the White Star Line, the Adriatic.
Millvina later said no-one was interested in her until the wreck was found in 1985, when she became a celebrity.
In one of the newspaper accounts at the time, the writer G.K. Chesterton used the disaster as a metaphor for, ‘our whole civilisation’.
‘The modern state and the unsinkable ship were alike in their power and impotence, security and insecurity, and while it indulged the rich, neither had provision for the poor and needy’.
The English Review magazine reflected that, ‘the ship was a place where one could demonstrate one’s contempt: first class on the boat deck, whilst the immigrants sorted out their own pecking order. First class in the upholstery of the Ritz; Second, of beef and kidney pies with its faux gentility’.
One of the ‘Ritz Class’ described, ‘the luxury of fresh daffodils on the table and her pretty cabin with its electric fire and pink curtains saying she never dreamed of sailing in such luxury’. Third Class would be lucky to have curtains.
Rich and poor, First and Steerage, disembarked from the Carpathia, at New York on Thursday 18th April.
The only passengers interviewed at the Inquiry were the Duff Gordons, and Lord Ismay Chairman of the White Star Line, and was attended by Prime Minister, Mr Aquith and Miss Ismay (Chairman’s sister).
The Duff Gordons and Ismay were later criticised for taking to ‘Lifeboat I’, which only carried 12, but capable of holding 40.
Both fathers of Mellvina (travelling steerage) and Barbara travelling, 2nd Class, died because there weren’t enough lifeboats, but all other family members survived.
Of the 2nd class passengers all 24 children were saved and 50% of the women, which suggests that the rule, ‘women and children first’ was respected on the whole.
(1) On October 16th 2007 Barbara Dainton died aged 96, being the last, but one, survivor of the sinking. Barbara had sailed from Southampton on a family ticket for £27.15s.
telegraph.co.uk. 1.6.2009. obituaries.
theguardian. 1.6.2009. Damian Pears/Pic.