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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Titanic passenger's robe on display

A luxurious robe belonging to one of the Titanic's most controversial survivors has been added to a popular exhibition about the doomed liner.

Fashion designer Lady Lucy Duff Gordon and her husband Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon escaped the sinking ship on the so-called "millionaires' lifeboat" and faced allegations they bribed crew members not to return to save others for fear the half-full boat would be swamped.

They always vehemently denied the claims, and the bribery accusations were subsequently rejected by an inquiry into the sinking, but the story still entered Titanic folklore and has endured more than a century on.

The intricate kimono-style robe worn by Lady Duff Gordon on the night of the sinking in April 1912 has now been purchased at auction by National Museums Northern Ireland, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and put on display in an exhibition at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra, Co Down.

The international designer, who ran the fashion house Maison Lucile, reputedly lost a wardrobe full of other expensive garments in the disaster, including three fur coats.

Encapsulating the social gulf between passenger classes on board the ship, a more modest item from a third class traveller has also gone on display at the exhibition.

The hat given to Irish American woman Bertha Mulvihill when she arrived in New York on the rescue ship Carpathia was donated to the museum by her ancestors.

Ms Mulvihill was born in Athlone, Co Westmeath, and moved to Rhode Island where she worked as a waitress. In 1912, she was in Ireland to attend her sister's wedding and decided to buy a ticket for the Titanic on a whim to return to the United States.

Another artefact joining the collection at the museum is the tool set of William Bell, a ship fitter who worked on Titanic as it was built at Harland & Wolff in Belfast.

Mr Bell was on board for its maiden voyage from Belfast to Southampton, completing last-minute work. Ironically, he had expressed bitter disappointment at being unable to join the vessel as it sailed on to America.

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