Seven Kings Titanic survivor Eva Hart on the voyage that claimed her father
The ship of dreams, as it was nicknamed, was famous as the largest and most luxurious liner ever built, but its memory lives on for very different reasons as historians and writers dedicate their time to finding out exactly what happened on the Titanic.
Millvina Dean, one of the last survivors, predicted the Titanic story would never die – she was right.
The tragedy still fascinates as countless films, documentaries and television dramas try to depict what happened in the early hours of Sunday, April 15, 1912.
One person knew what it was like to feel the chill of the brisk Atlantic air on her young skin, as she felt completely alone after becoming separated from her parents – one of them forever.
Eva Hart was just seven years old when she set sail on the Titanic’s maiden voyage from Southampton harbour with her mother and builder father, to start a new life in Canada.
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Eva was born in Seven Kings in 1905, but spent most of her adult years in Japan Road, Chadwell Heath, until her death in 1996.
Even before going on board her mother, Esther, had felt premonitions of disaster and according to her daughter, she said: “This is the ship that they say is unsinkable. It is flying in the face of the Almighty. That ship will never reach the other side.”
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When the ship struck the iceberg just before midnight, Eva woke up in her father’s arms as he carried her to the top deck.
He gave up his sheepskin lined coat to keep his family warm and Eva recalled him saying: “Hold mummy’s hand and be a good girl,” as she got into a lifeboat.
She never saw him again.
Mother and daughter were placed in different lifeboats but after being picked up by the Carpathia, which berthed in New York on April 18, they were reunited.
Eva’s mother told newspaper The Ilford Graphic four days after the Titanic sank: “My husband had been given a place in the same lifeboat that I was in, but gave it up to a woman in preference to saving himself. He kissed me goodbye and said, ‘goodbye, little girl, I will see you in New York’.”
After the rescue, Eva and her mother returned immediately to England. Eva left school at 16 and began to teach music and sing professionally. When she was 23 her mother died, and she emigrated to Australia but returned three years later.
As an adult Eva had recurrent nightmares and for many years felt unable to talk about what had happened.
When the wreck of the ship was located in 1985, she argued passionately against any attempt to recover its contents.
The plan for its recovery, she said, was “like digging up a skeleton... It should be left because it is my father’s grave”.
For many years she campaigned for increased maritime safety and she was appointed MBE in 1974 and published her life story, Shadow of the Titanic, in 1994.
Speaking to the Recorder in 1976, Eva said: “Even after all these years I can recall what happened as if it were only yesterday, although I was only a small girl.”
Remarking on watching footage from the wreckage she said: “Those scenes still remind me too much of a night I will never forget.”
Maurice Burns, a teacher at Chadwell Primary School, had the pleasure of meeting Eva in 1985 when she came to talk to his pupils about the night that changed her life forever.
He said: “Eva was 80 when she came in and the children listened intently to her story, and asked for her autograph. She told of the scramble to get to lifeboats and how she got split up from her mother, which was the last time she saw her father.
“An unusual silence fell over the classroom after she had told us her story and to this day I hope all the pupils remember her during the centenary anniversary of the most famous ship of all.”
The memory of Eva lives on through her book and the pub which was named after her.
The former police station in High Road was opened as the Eva Hart pub by chain JD Wetherspoon in July 1998, two years after she died.
Permission to name the pub after her was given by her cousin, Stanley Seymour who also donated memorabilia of her life, including a picture of the ship.
At the time, JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin told the Recorder: “We are pleased Eva’s family have given us permission to name the pub after her.
“We believe that name will be welcomed and that customers will find the memorabilia on Eva as well as that on the history interesting.”