Margaret Meehan with Titanic Belfast crew member Phil Cauley, on board SS Nomadic
We were delighted to have Margaret Meehan, niece of Violet Jessop - the lady known as 'Miss Unsinkable', visit Titanic Belfast recently!
The story of Margaret’s aunt, who travelled on all three Olympic class liners - Olympic
, and survived the latter two tragedies, has been 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 on the historic Slipways
with a commemorative event on Monday 21st November.
Violet Jessop worked on Britannic as a nurse during WW1
While visiting Titanic Belfast Margaret chatted to our staff, uncovering lots of interesting facts about her aunt!
- At the age of 21, Violet had to wear ‘frumply 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.
- Although working longer hours, she preferred working for American’s as she felt they treated staff better.
- 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.
- Her aunt 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.”
Tim Husbands, our CEO, said, “At Titanic Belfast, we not only tell the story of how the world’s most famous ship was built, designed and launched, but also the Belfast’s maritime heritage. Margaret’s family connection to the White Star Line and the Olympic class ships has to be one of the most unique – having worked on-board all three. It was a pleasure to have her in Belfast and to hear her family stories about Olympic, the beauty of Titanic and the elegance of the people on board and her view of Britannic as a hospital shop during the First World War. It was fantastic to be able to show her where the three ships were built on our slipways.”
To discover more about the Titanic Story or to walk the historic Slipways where the Olympic class liners were designed, built and launched, explore Titanic Belfast