Miss Avis Gertrude Dolphin

Avis Dolphin Second Cabin Passenger Saved
[No Picture Provided]
Born Avis Gertrude Dolphin August 1903 England, United Kingdom
Died 5 February 1996 (age 92) Dolgellau, Wales, United Kingdom
Age on Lusitania 12
Lifeboat 17
Traveling with - Hilda Ellis (nurse) - Sarah Smith (nurse)
Citizenship British (Canada)
Residence St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
Other name(s) Avis Foley (after marriage)
Spouse(s) Thomas Foley (1926 - ?) Please provide dates
Avis Dolphin (1903 - 1996), 12, was from St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.  She was traveling aboard Lusitania with nurses Hilda Ellis and Sarah Smith.  During the voyage, she befriended Professor Ian Holbourn.  During the sinking, Ian Holbourn placed Avis in a lifeboat, but the boat upset while lowering.  Avis survived but Sarah Smith and Hilda Ellis were lost.  Ian Holbourn also survived.  Avis and Ian Holbourn remained friends until Ian's death in 1938.
  1. Family and background
  2. Voyage aboard Lusitania
  3. Continued friendship and later life
  4. Ghost stories
  5. Media portrayal
  6. Links of interest

Family and background

Avis' family was from England, and her family immigrated to Canada in 1907 when she was two.  Her father had died from tuberculosis following his service in the Boer War and her mother ran a small nursing home.  Her mother was determined that Avis have an English education, and Avis was to travel to England on the Lusitania with nurses Hilda Ellis and Sarah Smith, both of whom were Mrs. Dolphin's employees going to England on vacation.

Voyage aboard Lusitania

During the voyage Avis had befriended author and professor Ian Holbourn.  Avis was seasick throughout the crossing and Professor Holbourn kept her spirits up by telling stories of the Isle of Foula, of which he was laird. When the torpedo struck, Avis had been sitting down to lunch and coffee had just been served.  The Lusitania listed so suddenly and violently that dishes crashed to the floor.  The stewards shouted, "No danger, keep to your seats!"  Except for a few screams, the atmosphere in the dining room was one of "absolute calm." The lights went out and the passengers scrambled to get up and out.  Avis then thought, "What a shame, I'm going to miss dessert."  Ian shouted to her and her nurses, "Stay where you are!" Ian Holbourn was sitting about twenty feet away and he took her back to his room to get lifebelts.  Ian's room was C-10 and a deck above Avis'.   There, Ian put on her a lifebelt that belonged to a fellow passenger while the other passenger assisted in tying the lifebelt.  Ian gathered a few of his most important manuscripts and carrying his own lifebelt, together they made for the top.  Ian and Avis were at the top of the companionway and almost out on deck when the lights went out. On deck, Ian and Avis sighted Hilda Ellis and Sarah Smith.  Sarah did not have a lifebelt and Ian offered her his.  She refused, saying that "his life was of more value than hers as he had a wife and children" (Holbourn, 248).  Ian would later comment strongly on the need of lifebelts on the boat decks.  They agreed that Ian would keep his lifebelt if he could find a boat for Avis, Sarah, and Hilda.  Ian attempted to get them away in a portside lifeboat, but they saw one smashed in launching.  They saw another launched empty, and some men stripped and swam for it. Sensing that the starboard side was their only hope, the group moved forward and Professor Holbourn placed Avis, Sarah, and Hilda in a starboard lifeboat (possibly #17).  He kissed Avis, and fearing that he would not survive told Avis to "find his wife and children and kiss them goodbye for him" (Holbourn, 248).  As Avis' lifeboat was being lowered, it capsized when two men tried to jump into the boat from the deck while the boat was still being lowered.  Avis swam clear of the boat towards a raft, where two men pulled her up.  She was not able to find Sarah or Hilda. Hoehling/Hoehling does not make it clear which ship she was rescued by, just saying that the boat had a stove and some blankets, and that later on land she was given a glass of warm milk and tucked into bed. Avis' physical recovery was rapid, and during her time at Queenstown she looked after Professor Holbourn, who was still under the weather from his prolonged exposure in the water.  On the way to the main island of Britain, Ian continued to take care of Avis, providing rooms for her at a Dublin hotel in Sackville Street.  Ian and his wife, Marion, who met Avis at the Birmingham railway station, accompanied Avis to her grandparents in Worcester.  Avis' grandfather admitted that he had a premonition of the Lusitania's torpedoing, as did Marion.  He had seen Avis' lifeboat capsize, but when she resurfaced he said, "Depend on it, that's our Avis!"

Continued friendship and later life

Ian and Avis continued to be life-long friends.  One day when Avis complained about how boring girls' books were, Ian promised to write her an adventure story that would be as thrilling as any that book that was written for boys.  Thus, The Child of the Moat was born.  When published in 1916, the book sold out immediately.  Before a second edition could be published, however, the publisher folded. Following her school years, Avis Dolphin moved to Edinburgh, close to the Holbourns.  During one visit to Holbourn's house (Penkaet Castle?) she met journalist Thomas Foley.  Avis and Thomas married in 1926. Avis lived out her remaining years in Wales.  She passed on 5 February 1996.

Ghost stories

According to the website Mysterious Britain, on one such visit to the Holbourns' Penkaet Castle (also spelled Penkaeth Castle) in 1925, Avis stayed in the King Charles Room.  Avis thought she heard someone moving downstairs and alerted the Holbourns.  When they headed downstairs, they then heard sounds of someone moving around in Avis' bedroom.  In a separate incident at Penkaet, Avis felt a ghostly fingertip draw across her throat.

Media portrayal

Throughout her life, Avis would provide her account of the Lusitania disaster to journalists and documentary crews who asked. She is credited as a contributor in Last Voyage of the Lusitania, a National Geographic documentary and the In Search of episode "Lusitania." Avis Dolphin is one of the main characters in the 2007 UK TV movie Lusitania: Murder on the Atlantic (retitled Sinking of the Lusitania:  Terror at Sea for US audiences).  Avis Dolphin's and Ian Holbourn's story is one of the main storylines in this TV movie, and Ian Holbourn is the narrator.  Avis Dolphin is portrayed by actress Madeleine Garrood (credited as Maddeleine Garrood).

Links of interest

The Child of the Moat: A Story for Girls, 1557 A.D., a novel by Ian Stoughton Holbourn Lusitania: Murder on the Atlantic at IMDb Penkaet Castle: Mysterious Britain & Ireland
Contributors: Michael Poirier Judith Tavares Hildo Thiel References: "Avis Dolphin." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 13 May 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avis_Dolphin>. Ballard, Dr. Robert D. with Spencer Dunmore.  Exploring the Lusitania.   Warner Books, Inc.,  1995. Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster.  G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1981. Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956. Holbourn, Ian B. Stoughton.  The Isle of Foula and "Memoir" by Marion C. Holbourn.  Johnson & Greig, 1938.  Reprinted, Birlinn Books, 2001. Lusitania:  Murder on the AtlanticInternet Movie Database.  Online <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1043496/>. "Penkaet Castle."  Mysterious Britain & Ireland.  Online.  <http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/scotland/east-lothian/hauntings/penkaet-castle.html>. Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002.

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