December 19, 2008

Last Titanic survivor sells mementos

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As a 2-month-old baby, Millvina Dean was wrapped in a sack and lowered into a lifeboat from the deck of the sinking RMS Titanic.

Now, Dean, the last living survivor of the disaster, is selling some of her mementos to help pay her nursing home fees.

Dean's artifacts, including a suitcase given to her family by the people of New York after their rescue, are expected to sell for about STG3,000 ($A7,900) at Saturday's auction in Devizes, western England.

Dean, 96, has lived in a nursing home in the southern English city of Southampton - Titanic's home port - since she broke her hip two years ago.

"I am not able to live in my home any more," Dean was quoted as telling the Southern Daily Echo newspaper. "I am selling it all now because I have to pay these nursing home fees and am selling anything that I think might fetch some money."

Dean's items form part of a sale by Henry Aldridge and Son, an auction house that specialises in Titanic memorabilia.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said the key item was a small wicker suitcase that was filled with clothes and donated to Dean's surviving family members after the disaster.

"They would have carried their little world in this suitcase," Aldridge said.

Dean also is selling letters from the Titanic Relief Fund offering her mother one pound, seven shillings and sixpence a week in compensation.

In 1912, baby Elizabeth Gladys "Millvina" Dean and her family were steerage passengers emigrating to Kansas City, Missouri, aboard the giant cruise liner.

Four days out of port, on the night of April 14, 1912, it hit an iceberg and sank. Billed as "practically unsinkable" by the publicity magazines of the period, the Titanic did not have enough lifeboats for all of 2,200 passengers and crew.

Dean, her mother and 2-year-old brother were among 706 people - mostly women and children - who survived. Her father was among more than 1,500 who died.

Dean did not know she had been aboard the Titanic until she was 8 years old, when her mother, who was about to remarry, told her about her father's death.

She had no memories of the sinking, and said she preferred it that way.

"I wouldn't want to remember, really," she told The Associated Press in 1997.

Dean began to take part in Titanic-related activities in the 1980s, and was active well into her 90s. She visited Belfast to see where the ship was built, attended Titanic conventions around the world - where she was mobbed by autograph seekers - and participated in radio and television documentaries about the sinking.

The last American survivor of the disaster, Lillian Asplund, died in 2006 at the age of 99. Another British survivor, Barbara Joyce West Dainton, died last November at 96.

Aldridge said the "massive interest" in Titanic memorabilia shows no signs of abating. Last year, a collection of items belonging to Asplund sold for more than STG100,000 ($A263,600).

"It's the people, the human angle," Aldridge said. "You had over 2,200 men, women and children on that ship, from John Jacob Astor, the richest person in the world at the time, to a poor Scandinavian family emigrating to the States to start a new life. There were 2,200 stories."


Source: SMH

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