As any old sea dog will tell you, it’s unlucky to have a woman on board ship.

483px-Violet_jessop_titanic(Unless the woman is naked, apparently. Sailors make up the best superstitions.)

But in the case of Violet Jessop, you’d have to say the old sea dogs have a point.

Violet started life as a landlubber, her parents were Irish sheep farmers living in Bahia Blanca in Argentine. Violet was a born survivor – three of her nine siblings did not live beyond infancy. She herself developed tuberculosis when she was a child and doctors said she would die.

But she didn’t. As events would later prove, Violet was pretty much unsinkable.

the Olympic and the Titanic - Violet sunk them both

the Olympic and the Titanic – Violet sunk them both

When her father died, her mother took Violet and her family back to England. When Violet left school she joined the navy, to see the sea.

And what did she see?

Well, when she was 23, she sailed on the RMS Olympic as a stewardess. At that time the Olympic was the world’s largest luxury liner and was under the command of Captain Edward Smith.

Three months after Violet stepped on board, the Olympic collided with the cruiser HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight.

The RN blamed the Olympic for the crash, but stopped short of blaming Jessop personally.

Violet's there somewhere

Violet’s there somewhere

Taking this as a warning, Violet decided to sail next on something unsinkable.

The Titanic.

She rubbed shoulders with Jack and Rose for just four days before her luck ran out again. After the ship hit the iceberg, Violet was ordered up on deck to set an example ‘to the foreign speaking people.’

The Irish?

She was ordered into lifeboat 16, and it was from there that she watched the Titanic go down, – all the while thinking: ‘there’s a great idea for a movie in this somewhere.’

"Who could possibly sink two White Star liners in a year?"

“Who could possibly sink two White Star liners in a year?”

She was among those rescued the next morning by the Carpathia.

A lesser soul would have given up seafaring but Violet was made of sterner stuff. Besides, it was obvious where the problem lay.

The captain on the Olympic and the Titanic was Captain Edward Smith.

Clearly, he was the problem.

So Violet, confident her bad run was done, joined up on His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Brittania just in time for World War One – and you guessed it …

… it hit a mine in 1916 and sank in the Aegean in 1916.

the Brittanic's survivors. Violet is the one holding a toothbrush

the Brittanic’s survivors. Violet is the one holding a toothbrush

She grabbed her toothbrush from her cabin – she was an old hand at being sunk, and apparently she always said her toothbrush was the one thing she missed when the Titanic went down (the one thing??)

Despite being sucked under the water and striking her head on the ship’s keel she somehow surfaced and was rescued by a lifeboat.

Years later, when she complained to a doctor about headaches, it was discovered she had fractured her skull.

the actual iceberg that sank the Titanic. Note the guilty expression

the actual iceberg that sank the Titanic. Note the guilty expression

Having gone down with the ship three times in five years a lesser soul might have looked for a job on dry land.

Not Violet.

She continued to work for the White Star and Red Star lines after the war. Neptune had done his best, and gave up trying to scuttle her.

She spent the next thirty years at sea without further mishap and made her last voyage when she was 63.

483px-Violet_jessop_titanicThe unsinkable Violet Jessop lived to a grand old age of 84, finally foundering in 1971.

Some wags would have you believe she was finally buried at sea. Not true.

Violet was buried in Hartest, in Suffolk, England – fifty miles from the nearest harbour.

About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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  1. ritaroberts says:

    Now there’s a very special Lady. Thanks Colin Great story.

  2. Julia Robb says:

    you’re always interesting.

  3. Old nurses are tough, man, they’re tough. Awesome as always, Colin.

  4. lynettemburrows says:

    Yeah, yeah. Always blame the woman, and a nurse, to boot! That’s why nurses are tough, we get the blame for everything. LOL. Great post, Colin.

  5. filbio says:

    That is an amazing story. She was one tough woman. My sis in law is a nurse. I need to show her this.

  6. Pingback: The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe « Bayard & Holmes

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