Miss Violet Madeline Mellinger was born in Walthamstow, Essex, England on 22 February 1899.
Better known as Madeline, she was the daughter of Claude Leinard Deschamps Mellinger (1874-1952), a clerk, and Elizabeth Anne Maidment (1870-1962). Her father was born in Wimbledon, Surrey to French parents whilst her mother hailed from Pimlico, Middlesex and they were married in 1895. She had four siblings: Eugenie Claudine Emily (b. 1895), Alexander Leinard Deschamps (1896-1975), Edmund Reginald (1900-1992) and Constance Sylvia (b. 1904).
The family are shown (minus her father who is listed at their home address, 10 Pembar? Road, Walthamstow) on the 1901 census as visitors to an address in Bournemouth. Her parents later became estranged and her father emigrated to Australia sometime before 1910, leaving her mother apparently destitute. Madeline appears on the 1911 census as an inmate at a children's home located at 34 Worple Road, Wimbledon, Surrey and her mother had become a domestic to make ends meet.
In early 1912 Madeline's mother had gained a position as a housekeeper in Bennington, Vermont on the Fillmore Farms, the estate of the Colgate family who had founded the toothpaste brand. She and her mother boarded the Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912 as second class passengers (ticket number 250644 which cost £19, 10s). Also aboard, albeit in first class, and bound for the same destination, was Charles Cresson Jones, the Fillmore Farms superintendant. He reportedly visited them in second class to show them pictures of Bennington.
"We were asleep in our berths when a man banged on our door and told us to put on warm clothes and lifebelts and to get on deck."
She said she and her mother were hurled into a half empty lifeboat and she shivered in the drifting boat, the cries of the drowning all around her.
"I could see the lights of the ship starting to go under water, then soundlessly, perhaps a mile away, it just went down. It was gone. Oh yes, the sky was very black and the stars were very bright. They told me the people in the water were singing, but I knew they were screaming."
After arriving in New York, they went to see the widow of Charles Cresson Jones in Bennington. They returned to England after the sinking but emigrated to Canada around 1915, settling in Toronto. She was married there on 1 October 1921 to David Daniel Mann (b. 4 June 1898 in London, Ontario), a banker, and they had four sons: Alex, Bill, Don and Carl.
On 15 April 1939 Madeline and her mother together with fellow survivors Emma Bliss and John Collins met for a Titanic reunion dinner at the Royal York Hotel, Toronto. During the 1950s Madeline related her memories to Walter Lord during his research for A Night to Remember and she later attended at Titanic Historical Society convention in the 1970s.
Madeleine died on 27 May 1976 in Toronto. Her cremated remains were interred in St. John's Ridgeway Anglican Cemetery near Welland, Ontario. Her widower David died on 1 October 1994.
Gavin Bell, UK
Articles and Stories
Toronto Daily Star (1939)