diamond geezer

 Sunday, April 15, 2012

In memory of the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, I've been out searching for passengers whose final resting place was London, not the bottom of the Atlantic. Yesterday crew, today passengers.

London's Titanic Survivors: Eva Hart (St Chad's, Chadwell Heath)
She was only seven. A new start in Canada was the family's plan, heading off from Ilford to Winnipeg via a second class cabin on the Titanic. But Eva's sleep was interrupted on the night of April 14th 1912 when her father woke her, bundled her into her mother's arms and sent the pair off to sit in the lifeboats. She never saw him again. Sitting in Lifeboat 14, Eva watched the entire ship go down, a sight that would haunt her for the rest of her life.
"I never closed my eyes. I didn't sleep at all. I saw it, I heard it, and nobody could possibly forget it. I can remember the colours, the sounds, everything. The worst thing I can remember are the screams. And then the silence that followed. It seemed as if once everybody had gone, drowned, finished, the whole world was standing still. There was nothing, just this deathly, terrible silence in the dark night with the stars overhead."
The planned emigration never took place. Eva and her mother took a ship back across the Atlantic, which only served to make their boat-related nightmares worse, and settled back in the UK. A life in land-locked Chadwell Heath beckoned, then part of Essex, now swallowed up by London. And Eva's was a very long life. She worked as a welfare officer at the Sterling weapons factory in Dagenham, but was also a part-time music hall singer. In later years she rose to become a Justice of the Peace, president of the local Conservative Association and a director of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service (which in 1974 earned her the MBE). By the 1990s she was still living in her old house in Japan Road, and one of only a handful of Titanic survivors still alive to bear witness to what she'd seen. Interviews, attendance at conventions, even an autobiography, all these helped keep her story alive.

Eva died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 91. There was great interest in her memorial service, not least in the fact that every attendee was given one of hundreds of porcelain frogs she'd been painstakingly collecting over the years. I can't find any confirmation of where that service took place, nor where her remains lie, but I guessed at St Chad's Church just off the High Road. It's usually locked, but the Garden of Remembrance up the side was on the latch, so I stepped inside. Alas, there was no sign of Eva on the narrow patch of memorial plaques, only a variety of Joans and Sydneys and Bettys and Rays. Which leaves just one memorial to Eva nearby, which is the Wetherspoons pub named after her on the corner of Station Road. It was converted from the local police station, built back in the days when police stations looked like country mansions rather than concrete fortresses. The inn sign shows Eva in a large broad-brimmed hat, wrapped up tight against the Atlantic chill [photo]. Yesterday the good folk of Chadwell Heath were sitting out at tables on the pub's front patio, fags and lager in hand. They looked more the sort that might have come up against Eva at her magistrate's bench, but I'd like to think they were raising a toast to the area's favourite daughter and her 84 bonus years.

London's Titanic Survivors: Adolphe Saalfeld (Hoop Lane Cemetery, Golders Green)
For Adolphe, the Titanic was a business trip. Born in Germany but living in Manchester, he was heading to New York to market some perfumes his company had created. He travelled first class from Southampton, and found time on the first hop to Ireland to write a long letter to the wife he'd left behind. "Dear Wifey, Thanks for your wire" he began, "the weather is calm and fine, the sky overcast." He described an afternoon promenade on the deck, and went on to describe the food on board in some detail. "I have quite an appetite for luncheon. Soup, fillet of plaice, a loin chop with cauliflower and fried potatoes, Apple Manhattan and Roquefort cheese, washed down with a large Spaten beer iced, so you can see I am not faring badly." When the iceberg struck he was in the smoking room, but found time to dash back to his cabin before escaping in Lifeboat 3. A third of the men travelling first class survived the wreck, a considerably better proportion than in second or third, but well behind the overall 75% survival rate for women.

Adolphe returned to Manchester to continue with his business, later moving to Kew where he died in 1926. He's buried on the other side of London, in the Jewish cemetery at Hoop Lane, Golders Green. It's an unusual site divided into two distinct halves - the Sephardi side all flat tombs, no gravestones, while the Reform half is rammed with headstones all facing north. Adolphe's in the latter half, up the far end of Row 30, past Jacqueline du Pre but not as far as Lord Hore-Belisha. His inscription's faded but remains readable, and reveals the identity of "Wifey" as Gertude Saalfeld who died shortly after Adolphe in 1929. The two of them lie in an unassuming plot, a turfed rectangle edged in stone, cared for by the cemetery's gardening staff alone [photo]. It's not much compared to some of the more ostentatious graves behind, but considerably better than the anonymous slabs to either side. As for those perfume samples, they resurfaced in 2000, and now tour the world as part of whichever Titanic exhibition will have them. It's fame and fortune of a kind for businessman Adolphe, not that you'd ever guess from his bleak north London memorial.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream