Evelyn Marsden was always a spirited type. Growing up in rural South Australia at Hoyleton she became an accomplished horsewoman. She spent holidays on a farm at Murray Bridge, and it was here she was taught to row on the Murray River, even fighting her way against the tide.
Nursing was an ideal profession for such a practical, hands-on person, and she trained at the Royal Adelaide Hospital before choosing a life at sea with the famous White Star line.
Evelyn was serving on the passenger ship Olympic when it collided with HMS Hawke on September 20 1911. The ship needed major repairs, which is why Evelyn joined the Titanic as nurse/stewardess, looking after the First Class Saloon passengers.
After the Titanic hit the iceberg on the night of April14, Evelyn and a fellow stewardess were comforted by Assistant Surgeon John Simpson, who had also transferred from the Olympic. He took them to his cabin and gave them whiskey and water, to calm their nerves. They didn’t see him again; he was among the tragically high number of those lost.
As passengers and crew abandoned ship, the skill Evelyn had gained on the Murray River was suddenly of vital importance. She helped row lifeboat No. 16 until they were rescued the following morning. It was said that she also tended a baby. A photo was taken of the surviving stewardesses. Unfortunately Evelyn is not identified.
Back in Hoyleton Mr and Mrs Marsden spent several days in deep distress waiting for news of their daughter. Finally they received a two word telegram, which told them all they needed to know; ‘Safe. Evelyn’ .
Soon after the disaster Evelyn married her fiancée, ship’s doctor William Abel James. They had met aboard the Olympic. Later that year they arrived back in Australia aboard the S.S. Irishman. Evelyn went back to the Murray Bridge farm, to thank her old friends for teaching her how to row.
The couple settled in Bondi, where Dr James became a G,P. He served in the A.I.F in WWI. There were no children from the marriage. Evelyn died on August 30 1938. Her broken hearted husband passed away just a week later. Both were in their fifties; far too young. They lie together in Sydney’s Waverley cemetery. A headstone was erected in October 2000.
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