Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Stars back Titanic survivor’s fund

Leonardo di Caprio, Kate Winslet and Titanic movie producer James Cameron have all donated — and now Don Mullan has singer Celine Dion in his sights.

The three big names from the Titanic blockbuster have each donated $10,000 to a fund to secure the future of Millvina Dean, the last living survivor of the legendary liner disaster of 1912.

Writer Don Mullan challenged the stars to support the fund, which was launched yesterday at the Harland & Wolff Drawing Office — the Belfast building where the liner’s blueprints were drawn up more than 100 years ago.

Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet, who played young lovers in the blockbuster Titanic movie, have released a joint statement saying: “We are honoured to contribute to the Millvina Fund. Our hope is that others will feel inspired by Millvina Dean’s remarkable story of survival and hope she can rest easier in knowing that her future will become more secure through this fund.”

The fund was set up after it emerged that Miss Dean (97) was trying to raise money to pay her nursing home fees by selling off family memorabilia. Aged just nine weeks at the time of the 1912 disaster, she was the youngest survivor after being handed into a lifeboat in a sack, but it was many years before she became aware of her involvement as her mother never spoke of what happened following the death of her father on the sinking liner.

Mr Mullan is hoping to raise €50,000 for the new fund by selling 100 limited edition photographs of Miss Dean signing a card for an autograph hunter. The photographs themselves are signed by Miss Dean and are selling for €500 apiece, with all proceeds going towards the fund.

Miss Dean’s nursing home fees amount to some £36,000 a year and Mr Mullan stressed that the assistance provided by the public will have to be ongoing.

“I laid down the challenge to the Titanic actors and director to support the Millvina Fund and I was delighted with the generosity they have shown in meeting that challenge,” he said.

“To date 30 copies of the print have been sold and I am confident that the support of stars such as Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio will help boost interest in the prints and ensure they will sell. I am also determined to enlist the support of Celine Dion, who sang the theme tune from Titanic.”

Another €10,000 was handed over yesterday to the fund on behalf of designer Ben de Lisi by his friend Paul Coughlan. Titanic Quarter Ltd, which is spearheading efforts to redevelop the area around the Drawing Office, also donated €1,000 yesterday.

Una Reilly from Belfast Titanic Society said: “As the last living survivor from the most famous ship in the world, Millvina Dean has a very special place in the annals of Northern Ireland’s history and indeed across the globe.”

Payments can be made via the fund website at www.themillvinafund.com or via the British Titanic Society or Belfast Titanic Society at www.belfast-titanic.com.

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