Eva Hart

Eva Miriam Hart was a 7 year old girl travelling second class with her parents Ben and Esther. The following interview was conducted by the historians employed by Southampton City Council but sadly the date is not given; judging by her comments regarding salvage it must have been in 1987 or soon afterwards. Time constraints dictated that I could only focus on Eva's life before the Titanic, her time on the ship and the immediate aftermath of the disaster. The questions are in italics.


Now, ask away

Can I just ask you where you were born?

I was born in Ilford, Essex.

And what date was that?

January 31st 1905. Thats a long time ago.

And were your parents originally from Essex?

No, my father came from Hull, and my mother came from Surrey.

Do you know why they came?

Oh, I've not the remotest idea (laughs). It doesn't matter anyway, but I don't know.

What dd your father do for a living?

He was a master builder.

In Essex?

In Ilford.

Did he work for someone else?

No, he was a master builder, had his own business.

And did your mother go out to work?

No, one didn't in those days.

Did you know what she did before her marriage?

Umm, well for the eleven years that she was a widow, before she met my father, umm she worked for one of the big confectionary firms in a job that I rather think must have been almost like the job that I did for most of my life and that was a welfare officer, because I know that she looked after the girls in the factory - it wasn't called a w welfare officer in those days but that was what she did for the eleven years she was a widow.

Can you remember what your house was like you were brought up in?

Excuse me. Can I remember ... I beg your pardon?

Can you remember what your house was like?

Oh a very nice house my father built for my mother. It's still standing despite the fact that there were bombs all around it during the War. Yes, it was a very nice house.

And did you have any brothers and sisters?

No never, no.

So when did your parents decide to emigrate to Canada?

Well I can't tell you. We went in the April and it was some months before that. I really can't tell you the date. My father had a friend who'd gone to Canada and was doing remarkably well as a builder and he came home on holiday and tried to persuade my father to join him, thinking things were better there than here and it was all decided in the space of one night but I can't tell you quite when it was. It was some months prior to the April.

You were attending a local school then?

Oh yes.

Can you remember anything about the school?

No, only that it was a very nice school.

Can you remember how you felt about going to Canada?

Yes I can remember that very well because my father was so excited about it and my mother was so upset about it and of course I was a real daddy's girl and it was a wonderful big ship and my father was so enthusiastic about it that I got enthusiastic about it and my mother, well for the first time in my life I saw her crying. That was something I'd never seen before and for the first time in my life I heard my father raising his voice to her sometimes, which I'd never heard before. And she was so desperately unhappy about the prospect of going because she had this premonition, a most unusual thing for her. In fact, unusual isn't the word. She'd never had a premonition before and she never had one after. But that was very severe and she was desperately upset about going. That of course I remember very clearly.

Did she ever talk to you about it?

Oh no. You must remember, before we go any further, I was seven. You don't talk to seven year olds about that sort of thing, do you?

So did you go straight to Southampton? Did you stay overnight before the ship sailed or did you go on the day?

Yes we went on the day I think to the boat train.

Can you remember what you first felt ... saw when you saw the ship?

No again remember I was seven and never seen a big ship before and I didn't realise how big it was. It looked very big but then I had nothing to compare it with. Everybody was very excited and we went down to the cabin and that's when my mother said to my father that she had up her mind quite firmly that she would not go to bed in that ship. She would sit up at night, and I remember my father saying to her, "Well if you want to be stupid, I can't stop you, but I don't know what you think people will say". And she said, "I don't mind what they say. That's what I'm going to do". And there was no further argument about it. She decided that she wouldn't go to bed at night and she didn't.

What class were you travelling?

Second class

And did you have a ... you were in a cabin with your parents?

Yes

And did you also eat with your parents?

Oh yes, yes.

Do you remember exploring the ship?

Well I wouldn't use the word exploring. I was about all day with my father because as I say my mother was sleeping, and to my great joy, I found there were some dogs on board. They weren't roaming about, they were all in a row of kennels and cages and things at the end of the ship and there was one little French bulldog that I took a great fancy to and my father was quite friendly with I think one of the crew who looked after them and everyday he used to let me go down and play with this little dog, and from that day to this, they have been my favourite dogs, the French bulldogs. But I didn't manage to get one for many years because no one knew what I was talking about when I used to describe it. They used to think it sounded most peculiar (laughs). A little puggy dog with big ears.

Did you meet many children on the ship?

Don't remember a lot. I remember four or five children that we played with and one I kept in touch with for a while, but I think there were quite a lot of children. But I was so ... I had such a fuss made of me by my father. He was so good to me. I was very content to play with him and go all over the ship with him.

Did your parents make friends with anybody else?

Well my mother didn't because she was only there in the evenings after dinner and that sort of thing but my father got friendly with an awfully nice man who wrote what I think is probably the best book about the Titanic. A man called Lawrence Beasley [sic]. He was travelling second class and I know they used to talk a lot, he and my father.

What sort of accommodation did you have in the cabin? Did you have a little bunk on your own and ... ?

It was a four berth cabin. One berth was not made up. It was put up against the wall so that it wasn't there, so to speak and so we had three beds and my mother had a table she used to sit at and do her knitting or sewing or whatever. And she had an armchair. It was a very nice cabin.

So can we come on to the disaster itself? When were you first aware that something was wrong?

When my mother woke me up. I wasn't aware then what it was. She felt this little 'bump' as she always described it because we were a very long way away from it. We were on the port side of the ship and the collision was on the starboard side of the ship. And had she been asleep it wouldn't have awakened her. It didn't waken anybody else in the cabins round about there at all, but she was wide awake and she felt this bump and immediately wakened my father and he wasn't very pleased about this because she had awakened him the night before and made him go on deck because she'd heard something that she though [sic? - thought?] was untoward and that was the ice flows [sic - floes] in the sea bumping against the side of the ship. So when she called him on the Sunday night, he wasn't very pleased about that and then she awakened me and she didn't say why but she said, "I'm going to dress you". And I said, "Oh no you're not", and got back into bed. By that time my father, who'd been up to the Boat Deck in a lift which was quite close by our cabin, he'd been up there and he came back and all he said to her was, "You had better put this thick coat on that I've got on", and she stood up and he put his coat on her. He [sic - I] used to say to her many years afterwards, when he came back, you didn't say to him, "What was it?" She said, "I didn't have to. I didn't know what it was but I didn't have to ask. I knew this something that had been over my head for many months and here it was, a great black cloud". Anyway, my father put another coat on, and he picked me up, wrapped a blanket round me and we went up unto the Boat Deck. And got there, of course, quite quickly. Well as you know, and as everyone knows the tragedy of the Titanic was the fact that she hadn't got enough life boats so it was only the people who were there first that got into a lifeboat, and we were there in plenty of time. The boats weren't even being lowered when we got up to the Boat Deck. And my father went away and spoke to one of the sailors and he came back and said, "Oh, we've hit an iceberg". Again my mother didn't say, "Oh have we, or where ... " she just said nothing. And he went away again and he came back and he said, "Oh, I have spoken to one of the Officers. They're going to launch lifeboats, but you'll all be back on board for breakfast". And so thinking that this was what was going to happen, they started to lower the boats and my father put my mother and I without any trouble at all. As I say, if we'd still been down in the cabin asleep, we would have got on Deck too late. So it is only because my mother had that premonition that I'm able to talk to you today. There is no doubt about that. He made no attempt to get in himself, but he helped other women and children and ... that was it. I never saw him again.

What deck were you on?

What ... do you mean which deck was our cabin on?

Yes.

"E".

And were there only women and children in your lifeboat?

No, there were some men in the lifeboat. I remember three men. I can't tell you who else. There were two sailors I remember. It might have been three sailors, I don't know. But it was mostly women and children, yes.

Did you see any crew at this time?

Oh, the sailors? Yes, of course. I mean they lowered the boats and they rowed the boats obviously.

So when did you last see your father?

When he put me in the boat.

Did he say anything to your mother?

Yes, he told me to hold my mummy's hand and be a good girl, that's all he said.

And obviously you were only seven so it's very difficult for you to remember what your feelings were but was there any panic that you remember?

The panic seemed to me to start after the boats had gone. We could hear it. At the time that we were being put in the boat, I don't think anybody realised there were not enough boats. I mean we were being put in ... but after we were away from the ship, rowing away as fast as we could because when a ship sinks the suction is terrible, but when we were in the boat rowing away, then we could hear the panic, of people rushing about on the deck and screaming and looking for lifeboats. I mean you imagine being wakened, going up on deck to get into a lifeboat, you're told the ship is sinking. Where are the lifeboats, they've all gone? That's when the panic really started.

Can you remember what you felt at that time?

I can only tell you I was terrified. It's quite impossible to use another word for it. I was absolutely terrified as anyone would be. Oh, it was dreadful.

And what happened after that Miss Hart, did you actually see the Titanic go down?

Of course, yes. See and hear. She broke in half as she was sinking and the noise, a sort of big explosion was terrible and the bows went down first and the stern stuck up in the Ocean for what seemed to me like ... almost like a long time. Of course it wasn't, but it sort of stark against the sky and then heeled over and went down and you could hear the people screaming and threshing in the water. That was the most dreadful thing.

Can you remember how far you were away from ...?

Oh no, of course I can't. No seven year old could possibly tell you what the distance was, I've no idea. Far enough to hear and see it all.

And did you hear music? Did you hear the band playing?

I certainly did. Certainly wasn't a band, it was just a few musicians, yes I did.

So what happened next? Can you remember?

Well the ship sank and finally the ghastly noise of the people threshing about and screaming and drowning, that finally ceased and I remember saying to my mother once how dreadful that noise was and I always remember her reply. She said, "Yes, but think back about the silence that followed it". And I know what she meant because all of a sudden it wasn't there, the ship wasn't there, the lights weren't there and the cries weren't there. It was as if the world stood still for a while and that was terrible. And we realized then I suppose that the absence of noise meant that the people we'd left behind we'd never see again. I wasn't capable of thinking that at that age but I think it now of course and as you know the Carpathia picked us up the next morning and everybody was very, very kind to us on board the ship and people looking round to see if the people they'd left behind had by any chance been picked up by another boat or something but no one ever found any of the husbands they'd left behind. But the worst thing really during the night was that the lifeboat that I was in, which was No.14 was so hopelessly overcrowded that in the night they started taking people out of it and putting them in other boats. Some of the boats weren't overcrowded. In fact some of them weren't full because people had refused to get in the boats. I understand, they didn't think it was going to sink, and during this business I got separated from my mother, so when eventually ... I mean when dawn came up and we were being picked up by the Carpathia, I wasn't in the same lifeboat with her. I'd been ... spent the rest of the night after she'd gone. I'd been lifted out of the boat and spent the rest of the night screaming for her. And I found her of course on the Carpathia. She was looking for me and I was looking for her but that must have been quite dreadful for people like my mother who would look round to see if my father had by any chance made it. But nobody did of course.

Do you know how you got on board the Carpathia?

Yes, in a sack. Winched up over a ... we were in a Mail bag, sack, because the children couldn't climb up rope ladders. So we were each ... one of us put in a Mail sack and that was terrifying, swinging over the Ocean in a luggage net. Terrifying.

Do you remember anything that happened when you got on board the Carpathia?

No, except that we were given clothes, dry clothes and we were fed. There weren't cabins for us because the ship was already full but everybody was very kind. As a matter of fact I did have a berth in a cabin. I don't know how because I understand the ship was quite full. Whether someone gave it up because I was so very sick and I was terribly sick but I do remember that I did have a berth. My mother didn't, she sat by my side all the time and the ship wasn't anything like the Titanic, of course, even to my childish eyes it was nothing like the Titanic at all but everybody was very kind and we were safe and that's what matters.

Do you know if all the Titanic passengers were kept together ...?

Were kept together?

...on the Carpathia?

I've no idea. Well I imagine so because it was such a small ship. I should think so, I don't know.

And how long did it take for you to get to New York?

I think we got there on the Wednesday evening. She sank in the early hours of Monday morning didn't she, at twenty past two and I'm very bad about this, I could look it up so easily but I don't. I think it was Wednesday evening. I remember the rest of my life with her of course.

And when you got to New York, is there anything that you remember?

No, I was taken to hospital. When we got to New York, because I was still so sick. And then in a very short space of time, we came back. My mother's greatest thought was to get back to England and I was the one that was in trouble coming back. I was terrified. She wasn't at all nervous coming back. She had a back cabin and she went to bed and she behaved ... oh very sadly but quite normally. She had no more fear. I was the one that was in trouble coming back. I wouldn't ... oh dear, she such a job to get me on to the deck to get some air. I was terrified.

Do you know if you came back with other passengers from the Titanic?

Yes, we did. I do remember two of them, because my mother kept in touch with these two ladies for a while. I don't know what happened eventually. It's a long time ago.

What ship did you come back on?

The Celtic. And I remember how nice the Captain was to all of us. He was very good.

Obviously, you were very young, but did you pick up any thing that your mother might have been feeling ... the sadness that she was feeling?

Oh well of course. Oh my goodness, yes. You don't lose your father at the age of seven and know that he's drowned in that terrible thing you've seen and not realise it. Oh God, yes. I was terribly fond of my father. I think everybody was fond of him. He was such an awfully nice man.

How old was he?

Aaah, I think he was a year younger than my mother or two years younger than my mother. I should think he was 40. No, no, no, no, when I was born he was 40. He was 47. Either 46 or 47 when it happened. He was 40 when I was born I think ... 39 or 40 when I was born. It was my mother's second marriage but he hadn't been married before. Yes ...

Can we just go back to New York? Do you know where you stayed when you ... ?

With my father's sister, who my mother had never met because she had gone to America before my mother and father met. We stayed with her until we came back.

Did you mother talk to any of the Press when you were ...?

I don't think so. I don't remember. Well, if she did, I don't know about it.


Notes:

Eva Hart has been accused of exploiting her fame as a Titanic survivor and while there are indications in other interviews, they are absent here: she says (in the untranscribed portion of the interview) that, "I don't think I'm a celebrity" and "I don't [resent the interest] ... I don't mind a bit...Its no use minding [talking about it] because I just got to do it. I said just now that I don't mind so therefore I go on doing it" But in other statements she seemed to be very egocentric. For instance, when the IMAX film "Titanica" was being made, she told the producers that she was the only survivor who could remember the disaster. Consequently, they focussed on her. The producers were upset to find out that other survivors remembered the disaster but it was too late to include them. Don Lynch has said on occasion that Eva once said to him, "There can't be many of us left who remember it." Don replied that there was Edith Haisman in Southampton, to which Eva responded, "Edith Haisman can't remember anything. She's arthritic!"

Eva was asked "And did your mother never talk to you about it as you were growing up?" to which the interviewer was told, "She would have done but I wouldn't do it. No, I used to say, "Don't talk to me about it. I don't want to hear" and she didn't force me." ... I never heard her talk about it."

Eva's opinion of the salvage of artefacts never changed during her life. She was asked, "What do you feel about all the attention recently about bringing up artefacts from the Titanic?" to which she replied,
"That I deplore and I will have nothing to do with the French who go down and dig into my father's grave, bring things up and sell them [sic], I think its disgusting. The Titanic, as far as I'm concerned, is a totally different disaster to any other because it is the only disaster in which there was no need for anyone to die, and if the Titanic had had enough lifeboats, nobody would have died. They would have had two and a half hours in which to save everybody and we certainly wouldn't be chuntering about it now. But it was such a tragedy, because it was, as Doctor Ballard said, "A monument to man's arrogance", and those 1500 people died and they shouldn't have died, and therefore to me that is a grave, not a thing of great monument for people to go and pick things up from. It's a grave and leave it and I feel very strongly about it. And I'm so glad Doctor Ballard agrees with me. I said to him once, "I'm not a very clever person, but surely we can't learn anything from bringing bits up from the Titanic. She's not an old ship. Now the Mary Rose is something quite different". And he agreed with me. He said, "You know she was built of steel and wood and as they are today we can't learn anything from her, then leave her alone." Leave her alone. And I resent it very much when people think otherwise."
It is now unknown, what she would have said have she known of Dr.Ballard's changing opinion on the issue of salvage

Generally, speaking, it has been noted that Eva knew how to tell a story and give people what they wanted, adding to her account over time, such as;
In 1979 she was interviewed for the "SOS Titanic" movie magazine, and she stated that she would only ever swear to hearing ragtime music but a few years later she remembered being in a church soon after the disaster and hearing "Nearer My God To Thee" .It had such an effect on her she ran out of the church crying because she remembered where she'd heard it.
She said in 1980 that she didnt see the ship break apart but her mother did. Then in 1983, probably because of hearing other survivors stories, she changed her mind. She had seen it disintegrate after all.
Researcher George Behe once told me that when he and Don Lynch were interviewing Hart, she mentioned that her stewardess, Violet Snape told them she was engaged to Jack Phillips, the senior Wireless Operator. At this point, both Behe and Lynch exchanged furtive looks of silent disbelief. At any rate, Lynch considered Hart's stories (including the premonition) to be too unreliable to include in his "Titanic : An Illustrated History" according to George.
Eva Hart said she left the ship in such a hurry that she was still in her bed clothes. But a photo taken soon after the disaster shows her wearing the same clothes as she was wearing before the Harts embarked.
The premonition story would seem to be a later invention. In some interviews, she said to her husband at the dockside when he said they were on the Titanic that "Now I know why I am nervous. That ship will never reach the other ship" and that calling a ship unsinkable was "Flying in the face of God." But Eva's mother was so convinced that the ship would indeed make it to New York and back that she wrote in a famous letter (that recently went to auction) that it would stay on board the ship and travel back across the Atlantic to be delivered to friends in England. The letter makes no mention of premonition or staying up at night because she was worried. Her mum's nerves can be put down to a lack of lifeboats and general jitters about starting a new life overseas. Eva Hart of course knew about the letter and its contents. A newspaper account mentions that although she rested fully dressed at night, she was awake during the day to attend breakfast and other meals.

The interview above doesn't tell us a great deal but it does reinforce the opinion that Eva's memory is not as good as she claimed. For instance, she said she was on "E" deck, on the port side, but in reality on that deck, 2nd class was on the starboard side. Nicholas Murgia, a Titanic researcher, says of her cabin layout: "Her description matches Pullman berths. Pullman berths, when not in use, could be folded up against the wall. But such kind of fittings were only in first class cabins. Second class cabins had sofa berths instead. These were sofas that could be converted in two berths if needed. But I don't think, when used like this, one of the two beds could be folded up against the wall the way she says. It's just so unclear to me ... What about this table and armchair? Well maybe there were armchairs in second class cabins, because we know wicker armchairs in first class cabins are not represented on the plans, so maybe it could have been the same for second class. But most of the second class cabins actually had a folding seat. And I don't see any table at all."
Then she mentions Lawrence Beesley, who never once in his detailed account of the sinking mentions a solitary man and her daughter interacting with him. There has also been some dispute about Hart's later claims of befriending Nina Harper on board.
Eva does not mention the commotion on the boat deck that resulted in 5th Officer Lowe, in her lifeboat (!) drawing out his gun and firing warning shots.
In 1962, Hart said, "The night before the disaster, my mother heard what she thought were some untoward sounds and roused my father, insisting that he go up on deck to see what was the matter. He eventually gave way and after a while returned to say that, of course, there was nothing the matter, that the ship was traveling at a very high speed and that it was terribly cold." There is no mention of the ice "flows" [sic] as described in the interview above. Indeed, in "The Ilford Graphic" (10/5/12) in which Esther Hart's account was first published she writes of experiencing three jolts after she had just dozed off (so much for being awake!) and implored her husband to investigate. He did so and soon returned, assuring her that the sea was calm and the ship was travelling smoothly. At breakfast the next morning, he laughingly told their table about it but neither her husband nor anyone else could explain the jolts.
Of most interest is Eva's mention of the dogs and their kennels. It is unlikely that she could have seen "a row of kennels and cages" if they had been on a lower deck, which the general arrangement plans show (the phrase that she was "going down" to see her favourite dog can perhaps be put down to a figure of speech.) This could indicate that the kennels were on an upper deck, but Eva's memory is so controversial on many aspects it is difficult to place much credence on her claims.


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