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RMS TITANIC: The Birth of a Legend and the Death of Another

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

by Terri Bey

May 31st is an important date in the history of the RMS Titanic. On May 31, 1911, the RMS Titanic was launched, and on the same day, her older sister, the RMS Olympic left Belfast to start on her maiden voyage. On May 31, 2009, Millvina Dean, who was the last living Titanic survivor, passed away at 97, so this day is one to celebrate the legendary Titanic's launch and at the same time, remember the life of Millvina Dean.

Let's start with the launch of the RMS Titanic, herself. The launching took place at the Harland & Wolff shipyards, where approximately 100,000 people were in attendance, including Harland & Wolff Chairman Lord Pirrie and other dignitaries. There was no christening of the ship, as seen in films, as White Star never christened any of her ships.

The slipway was greased up with soap, tallow, and sperm whale oil, so the 24,360-ton hull of the Titanic can slide into the water. Hydraulic rams were positioned right under the bow and at 12:13 pm, Lord Pirrie gave the signal. The hydraulic rams were released by Robert Falconer Keith, Head Foreman Shipwright at Harland & Wolff. The Titanic slid down the slipway and into Belfast Harbor. The legendary Titanic has been launched.

A photo of the launching of the RMS Titanic. Robert Welch Photographer?

Let's now discuss the late Millvina Dean, who died on May 31, 2009. Elizabeth Gladys Millvina Dean was born on February 2, 1912, in Camberwell, Surrey, England. The two-month-old Millvina Dean, along with her parents, Bertram Frank and Georgette Light Dean, and her brother Bertram were going to emigrate to Witchita, Kansas, where her father was hoping to open a tobacco shop. They boarded the RMS Titanic at Southampton and traveled in Third Class.

Millvina Dean became the youngest passenger at two months old and when the RMS Titanic sank, became its youngest survivor. Dean's mother and brother also survived. Unfortunately, her father did not. Dean, her mother, and brother returned home on the Adriatic, where Miss Dean, being the youngest Titanic survivor, became a mini-celebrity as First and Second Class passengers wanted to hold her.

In her adult life, Millvina Dean worked for the British Government. Dean eventually became a Titanic celebrity and was a guest at many Titanic-related events, such as conventions, autograph sessions, etc. She also was a guest of the Titanic Historical Society on her first trip to Belfast in 1996. She passed away on May 31, 2009, of Pneumonia.

Photo of Millvina Dean. Source: The LA Times


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