And did they have gorgeous sweaty sex in the backseat of a 1912 Renault?

The answers to these questions are: yes, yes and probably not.

titanic, jack and rose, renault, jack dawson, James Cameron, the writer and director of ‘Titanic’ actually based Kate Winslet’s character, Rose du Witt Bukater, on American artist Beatrice Wood.

Like Rose, Beatrice was the daughter of wealthy socialites and defied her parents to pursue a career as an artist. She lived an extraordinary life, earning accolades as an actress as well as pioneering the Dada art movement (she was called the ‘Mama of Dada’).

She also gained a great reputation as a sculptor and potter and her private affairs – she was reputed to have had a love triangle with artist Henry Duchamp and his friend Henri-Pierre Roché – scandalised America.

Then, when she was 90, she took up writing. Her 1985 autobiography was called ‘I Shock Myself.’

She was 105 when she died – when asked the secret of her longevity she said:

‘I owe it all to chocolate and young men.’

But Beatrice was never on the Titanic.

titanic, jack and rose, renault, jack dawson,
Beatrice Wood photo: Sheryl Reiter

There were two Roses who were and who survived the sinking: one was Rosa Abbott, a third class passenger, who jumped into the water with her two sons. She the only woman and the only passenger to be pulled from the water and survive – the rest were crew.

Sadly, her two sons died in the water.

The other Rose was Miss Rose Amélie Icard, who was a maid to Mrs George Nelson Stone. She and Mrs Stone were rescued by the Carpathia in lifeboat 6.

But what about Jack Dawson?

There was a J Dawson on the Titanic, but the ‘J’ stood for Joseph, not Jack and he was a member of the Titanic crew.

He had grown up in the notorious Monto tenements slums of Dublin and when he was twenty he escaped by joining the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was posted to Netley, one of the largest military hospitals in England – just three miles from Southampton.

It was there that he met a man called John Priest, a coal trimmer on the White Star liner, Majestic.

Through him he met Priest’s sister, Nellie, and the two fell in love.

titanic, jack and rose, renault, jack dawson, After leaving the Army, Dawson joined Priest in the boiler room of the Majestic, before they both signed on for the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

When they hit the iceberg, Dawson had the foresight to put his National Sailors and Firemen’s Union card – his card number was 35638  – into his dungarees before going topside. The card was found on his body the next day.

His friend John Priest survived; but tragically his sister Nellie lost her sweetheart.

Did her heart go on? We will never know.

Dawson was buried in Nova Scotia where he rested in relative obscurity before finding world fame 85 years later after the release of the film.

His grave is number 227 in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia and has since become a shrine to many of the movie’s fans, who leave photographs, cinema stubs and pictures of themselves on the grave.

Some even leave hotel keys – though I wonder what they’d do if they heard the key turning in the lock at night, as Jack has now been dead a hundred and four years?

Now the question you’ve all been dying to know

Would getting on the door have saved Jack?

the iceberg that sunk the Titanic - but its fame has since melted away
the iceberg that sunk the Titanic – but its fame has since melted away

On the night of the sinking, the sea temperature was around 28° F.

Our bodies lose heat about thirty times faster in water than in the air and when our core temperature falls under 89° F, we start to lose consciousness. Under 86° F and heart failure can occur, which is the most common cause of hypothermia-related deaths.

So Jack could have survived for up to an hour, as he was young and fit and not trying to swim – people who move around in the water lose heat much faster.

However several people died from cold that night even in the lifeboats, so even if Rose had helped him up onto the door – and I still think, after all he’d done for her, she could have had a better go – there were no guarantees.

Now, more importantly – could they have had sex in the back seat of Jackie’s car?

from Titanic (1997) - copyright 20th Century Fox/Paramount - claimed under fair use
from Titanic (1997) – copyright 20th Century Fox/Paramount – claimed under fair use

It is believed there were about thirty cars in the Titanic’s hold, all but five belonging to first class passengers returning from touring holidays in Europe – but only one is actually listed on the manifest.

It belonged to Titanic survivor William Earnest Carter, and it was a 1912 35 HP Renault Coupe de Ville.

Cameron looked for Carter’s original documents for the vehicle so that the car could be recreated almost exactly in the film. But what Cameron didn’t show us is that it was almost certainly packed in a wooden crate so unless Jack had a claw-hammer with him, the answer to the question above is – ‘probably not.’.

Besides, even if the car wasn’t in a box – I don’t believe our real Jack would ever have cheated on Nellie.

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Here’s the story of another young woman who survived the sinking of the Titanic …

kindle bestseller, amazon bestseller, top selling romanceKitty was awake and in her uniform by six o’clock, before the first of her bells had started ringing. Elise was right, Her Ladyship wanted breakfast in bed, out of spite if nothing else. And eggs soft boiled mind, if they didn’t have soft yolks she was sending them back, she made that clear enough.

Yes, Mrs Finnegan.

And so to another day of scrubbing and cleaning and bell-answering, fetching teas and making beds and polishing brass, eating hasty meals standing up in a steamy pantry with the deck around her littered with the droppings of the last meal. She cleaned cabins and bathrooms, swept and dusted; she arranged flowers, hung up clothes, fetched basins and cold cloths for the seasick. At night she turned down beds and cast a longing glance at the grand staircase, at the ladies on their way back from the dining room in their fine dresses with low necklines, their arms bare, diamonds glittering at their throats and on their fingers,

At least you’re not in the Liberties, she reminded herself.


Finally, a quiet moment. She looked around to see if anyone in the crew was watching her, made to go back to her own cabin, but instead she took a wrong corridor on purpose, went down the alley past the engineers’ quarters. The chief steward would raise the roof if he found out where she was, but he could never prove it was deliberate.

She would say she just lost her way on the new ship.

It was certainly the grandest liner she had been on since she started with White Star and the most stable; some of the crossings she’d made, the decks had been completely awash in bad weather, plates and bowls had to be put on special racks on the dining room tables or they would end up in madam’s lap. On the older ships it was like being in an earthquake for the entire crossing, the woodwork creaking and squealing, cabin doors slamming, crockery spilling from cupboards and smashing on the deck. She was seasick morning till night, all year round.

Third deck on the Titanic wasn’t like the other ships she had been on either, usually it was bleak, airless and overcrowded, and the noise from the boiler rooms was deafening. But thanks to Mister Andrews third class was almost sumptuous, glistening rows of white-painted cabins, there was even laughing and singing, not the refinement of first deck perhaps, but it would have been almost as good as first class on the other ships she had served on.

Kitty found her way to the men’s section, near the front of the boat, pretending she was on an errand, checking all the cabins as she went along. There were two double bunk beds in each of the cabins, most of the doors were still open with lights on, men in shirtsleeves sitting up talking, or reading.

Lincoln was plumped on his bunk in his braces and socks, a note pad on his lap. His spectacles were perched on the end of his nose. He peered over the top of them at her. ‘Well good evening!’ He stopped writing and laid the note pad aside.

‘Good evening, Mister Randolph.’

‘Call me Lincoln.’

‘What are you writing?’

‘An article about the suffragette movement in London. Do you know they’ve been smashing windows in Oxford Street? I’d say they mean business.’

‘An article? You mean like for a newspaper?’

‘Something like that.’

‘Have you ever had anything published?’

‘I write regularly for a newspaper called The Masses and I’ve had several pieces in Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post. Have you heard of those?’

She shook her head. ‘Like I said, I’ve never been one for reading.’

‘That’s a shame.’

‘So this article you’re writing, it’s for the Americans, is it? Do they care what happens in Oxford Street over there?’

‘They don’t care much for Oxford Street but they do care about votes for women. It’s a sore subject in certain circles.’

‘What circles?’

‘Most circles, but it’s mostly the men that are sore about the idea of it.’

‘So is that what you’ve been doing in England, Mister Randolph? Writing?’

‘Lincoln. And yes, I’ve been to London and to Paris as well, collecting material for articles.’

‘So what else do you do?’

‘Well, that’s about it.’

‘Nothing else?’

‘No, that’s how I earn my living.’

‘Why don’t you write your articles in New York, then?’

Well, I could but my professor at Harvard always told me that if you want to write about life you have to see life.’

‘You went to Harvard? Isn’t that one of them fancy universities?’

‘As fancy as it gets, I guess.’

‘So I ask myself, what’s a man who travels third deck doing at Harvard?’

‘And it would be a good question. The answer is, my parents sent me there, they thought it would do me good.’

‘He’s money, has he?’

‘He has a cigar factory. The joke in the family is that the family fortune went up in smoke.’

‘Your father owns a factory? So what in God’s name are you doing down here, then?’

He sat forward and dropped his voice in a mock whisper. ‘Because I don’t think they would like my views on the upper decks.’

‘What are your views, Mister Randolph?’

‘Lincoln. Well to answer your question, Kitty … it is Kitty, isn’t it? To answer your question, I’m not what you might call a great advocate of capitalism, even though I’m a product of it. Do you know what capitalism is?’

‘Sure and I don’t.’

‘It’s the economic system we live and work in. Capitalism means paying your workers almost nothing for working intolerably long hours, and getting your customers to try and make up the shortfall in tips. That’s it in a nutshell, I think. How much does JP Morgan pay you, Kitty?’

‘I don’t know this JP Morgan you keep talking about..’

‘You don’t know him but like I told you last night it’s him that owns this shipping line and he’s the one who tells them how much to pay you and all your fellow slaves on the Titanic. Come on, how much?’

‘Two pounds, ten shillings a month.’

‘So you really couldn’t survive without the tips, could you? It’s starvation wages Kitty, plus you have to buy your own uniform, don’t you, and have it laundered?’

‘I get an extra ten shillings a month for upkeep.’

‘Sure you do, if you have anything left over after you’ve paid for breakages. They charge you for breakages too, don’t they Kitty? And do you know how much Mr JP Morgan is worth?’

She shook her head.

‘Somewhere between fifty and a hundred million dollars. Does that seem like an awful lot to you? Now how do you think he came to be worth so much money, Kitty?’

‘I don’t know but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.’

‘He makes that so much because he pays you so little. You and tens of thousands of others who work for him. That’s how he does it.’

‘Are you a socialist, Mr Randolph?’

‘Lincoln. Yes, I am Kitty. Heard of socialism have you?’

‘They say you people want to bring down the government.’

‘No Kitty, we just want to change the system and replace it with something better. Do you know what a union is?’

‘Of course I do.’

‘Well imagine a world where all the workers were in a union, it wasn’t just you going cap in hand to your employer asking what wages he was prepared to pay you, instead you had every worker in the world standing behind you when you did it. That’s what a union is. What I dream of is a world where all the workers are organised into one big union, so they can tell the JP Morgans of this world that if they want labour then they’ll have to give their workers a share of the profits. Imagine that! What if you weren’t a slave any more, what if you had power. What if a union made your work valuable?’

‘You think that will ever happen?’

‘It’s the twentieth century, Kitty, it’s the new dawn, a whole brave new world! That, Kitty O’Kane, is what I write about.’

‘How do you know my name?’


‘I never told you my name was O’Kane.’

‘Well, I’ve been asking about you.’

‘Now why would you do that?’

‘Why do you think I would that?’

‘I’m sure I don’t know.’

‘Well, I’ll leave it you to figure it out.’ Kitty turned to go. ‘What is it you want Kitty? You want to spend your whole life making up beds and cleaning up messes?’

‘Of course I don’t.’

‘No, I didn’t think so. Something tells me you want to leave a mark on the world, don’t you?’

‘I’m just a woman with no education, Mister Randolph, not like you.’

‘Lincoln. And I don’t think it matters one good goddamn about education, all that matters is the look in your eye and the fire in your belly.’

Kitty studied him. He gave her a boyish grin, knew he had her. ‘I don’t know about all this blather about capitalism, but a woman having a vote same as a man, now that would be a good start, if you want my opinion.’

‘Well, I do want it, or I wouldn’t be telling you. And that’s another thing that’s going to happen, Kitty. And you can be a part of it or you can just stand and watch while you fetch and carry for people who don’t give a damn about you.’

He started writing in his notebook. Kitty hovered for a moment. ‘I’d better be getting back.’

‘Nice talking to you, Kitty O’Kane.’

‘You too … Lincoln.’

She made her way back up the gangway, her foot ached, her back ached, but a part of her was excited. Did men really think like that in Harvard? Did any man think like that anywhere?

Did he really think she could change the world?

Well never mind that now, all she wanted to do was put her head down and get some sleep. She had perhaps just enough left in her to fetch a bottle of iced water from the pantry before she collapsed on her bunk.

‘Ah, Kitty!’

She looked up. Her Highness sailed towards her, she had her little dog with her, holding it in her arms, did the damned thing never walk anywhere, God gave it legs, didn’t it?

‘My dear, you do look so very tired, are you going off-duty now?’

‘I hope so, ma’am.’

‘Before you go, could you do just one more little thing? It’s so lovely outside and Jack and I are having just the best time looking at the stars, so would you mind giving Suzie her lamb cutlet and peas?’ She dropped the dog into her arms. ‘Fresh peas, mind, and mash them for her, will you? You’re such a dear. I knew you wouldn’t mind.’

She turned and flounced away, leaving behind a fog of French perfume and condescension. The dog yelped and writhed in her arms. Kitty stared after Jack Finnegan’s fecking mistress and would have poked out her tongue at her back but then she saw the chief steward watching her and so she forced a smile and headed off to the pantry, as if it really was no bother at all.


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Colin Falconer

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  1. I read I Shock Myself a few years ago. It was eye-opening, a bit annoying at times, but amazing all the same. It’s one of the few books I passed along with a “you might want to read this” to my boss at the time. I know he passed it along the same way.

    “Why” we do the things we do is always interesting… and it was full of that sort of revelation.

    Thanks for the reminder of an interesting book.

    I won’t even… as to the keys.

  2. Enjoyed reading the facts about Jack, Rose and the Renault Coupe de Ville. Your East India book looks most interesting, I’d like to read it. Since I already get your newsletter and am signed up to your Facebook page, what are my options?

  3. Thank you for this wonderful article! I love to hear about the real people directly, or indirectly, portrayed in a work of historical fiction, whether it be book or film.

    The hotel keys left at the grave…wow! The level of fan-aticism was high in those individuals. lol

    I loved East India, of course. 🙂

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