Cyril McHale profiles the Irish-Argentine ocean liner stewardess, memoirist and nurse who is known for surviving the disastrous sinkings of RMS Titanic in 1912 and her sister ship HMHS Britannic in 1916. In addition, she had been onboard RMS Olympic, the eldest of the three sister ships, when it collided with a British warship in 1911.
Violet Constance Jessop was surely too preoccupied as a child to ever dwell on what her extraordinary destiny might be.
She was born on October 2nd 1887 near the port city Bahia Blanca in Argentina to Irish immigrant sheepfarmers William and Katherine Jessop, as the eldest of nine children, three of whom sadly didn’t survive.
As a youngster, Violet contracted tuberculosis and doctors feared the worst, but amazingly, she pulled through. Tragically, her father died from post-surgical complications when she was sixteen. Consequently, the family moved to England.
Her mother got a job as a ship’s stewardess to provide for the family, and Violet cared for her youngest sister with her mother away. Things took another turn for the worse when her mother fell ill, and Violet had to deputise as breadwinner.
So she left her convent school in Kent to also seek work as a ship’s stewardess. In 1908, aged 21, she secured her first stewarding job on the Royal Mail Line steamer, Orinoco. Absurdly, her employers requested the lovely young Violet to dress more ‘plainly,’ since her good looks might provoke the male crew and passengers!