From marriage proposals to narrow escapes, we remember Titanic’s Miss Unsinkable
On Saturday 28th April the Lotto results were bought to you from a much loved lottery-funded treasure the SS Nomadic, in Belfast. See how you've helped save an incredible piece of history, and how it's impacted the life of one person in particular.
In April 1912 SS Nomadic completed her most famous task, transferring excited first and second-class passengers to the Titanic, which was moored off-shore. In awe of the Nomadic’s luxurious design, passengers were blissfully unaware of the tragic fate awaiting many of them only days later.
One of the other passengers onboard the Titanic was Violet Jessop, a stewardess who has since become known as ‘Miss Unsinkable’. Last year, her niece Margaret Meehan visited the National Lottery funded Nomadic to see the last real tangible link to what it was like to step on board Titanic.
An Unsinkable Spirit
The story of Margaret’s aunt, who travelled on all three Olympic class liners - Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, and survived the latter two tragedies, has become one of the most famous tales about the ships and led to her being given the unique nickname 'Miss Unsinkable'.
Violet worked on board RMS Titanic and escaped on a lifeboat, as well as on board HMHS Britannic as a nurse during WWI, when it was hit by a German mine. Her niece's visit coincided with the 100 year anniversary of the sinking Britannic, which was marked with a commemorative event last November.
- At the age of 21, Violet had to wear ‘frumpy old clothes’ and no make-up in order to get a job, as most women working as stewardesses in the early 1900s were middle-aged. Employers believed that her youth and good looks would be a disadvantage to her, “causing problems” with the crew and passengers
- Over the course of her career, she got at least three marriage proposals while working on various ships, one from an incredibly wealthy first-class passenger
- Violet enjoyed working aboard the massive ships and often commented on the beauty of the Olympic class ships and the elegance of their passengers
- She also travelled on RMS Olympic’s maiden voyage when it collided with HMS Hawke, a British warship. Thankfully, there were no fatalities
- On the night of Titanic's sinking, Violet was ordered on deck and to put on her life jacket and get into the lifeboat as an example to those who didn’t speak English. This story inspired the conversation between Thomas Andrews and Rose’s stewardess in James Cameron’s TITANIC movie
- Violet joked it was her thick auburn hair that saved her in the Britannic tragedy. The ship was sinking fast and she had to jump overboard but was getting sucked under the ship’s keel which struck her head, her hair acted as a cushion and she escaped. Years later, she went to the doctor as she had a lot of headaches, he discovered she had sustained a fracture of the skull
- Violet worked on ships on and off until she was 61 years old. She enjoyed the rest of her life gardening and feeding her chickens
Margaret commented, “My aunt having spent most of her life on board ships, would often speak about her times at sea. She started working for the White Star Line in 1910, and travelled on board all three Olympic class liners. It was very interesting to see where the ships were built and learn about the heritage behind them, as well as stepping on board the last remaining White Star Line vessel, SS Nomadic. It was great to see the staircase, plasterwork, bar and other interiors that would have greeted passengers that she would have waited on.”