Avis Dolphin

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Avis Gertrude Dolphin-Foley (born August 1903, England, resided 1905-1916 St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada; died February 5, 1996, Wales, United Kingdom) was a survivor of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.

Dolphin was on her way to England, where she was to live with her grandparents and attend school, when she befriended author and professor Ian Holbourn. She was in a second-class stateroom during the voyage. She had just eaten lunch and coffee was being served when the torpedo attack occurred. The resulting list was so sudden and violent that dishes crashed off the tables; the scene was one of "absolute calm."

Holburn was able to get Avis and the two nurses traveling with her into lifebelts, onto the deck, and into a lifeboat. However, the lifeboat capsized when two men attempted to jump into it. Avis was rescued from the ocean, but her two nurses were not.

After her quick recovery in Queenstown, she regularly visited Holbourn, who was suffering from exposure. She continued her friendship with Holbourn up to the end of his life, even suggesting to him once that books written for girls were too boring; in response, Holbourn wrote for her the bestseller The Child of the Moat.

Dolphin was later introduced to journalist Thomas Foley during a visit to Holbourn's home, and the two were married in 1926. For many years, she contributed her account of the sinking of the Lusitania to several journalists and documentary crews. She is credited as a contributor in the National Geographic documentary Last Voyage of the Lusitania and also is a contributor to the In Search of episode "Lusitania". Finally, her younger self, about age 12, is depicted in a BBC movie of the Lusitania sinking: Lusitania: Murder in the Atlantic, in which she is played by Madeleine Garrood.

Avis Dolphin lived out the rest of her life in Wales. She died peacefully on February 5, 1996.

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