LAKONIA SURVIVORs STories
"We were in the lifeboat for 10 hours - it had no oars or engine."
John Hynes, Irish, aged 19 at the time, was a medical student, and was travelling with his family - parents, brother and two sisters, plus nanny, all of whom fortunately survived.
"We were at a ball in the Lakonia room - I was dressed as an Arab in a sheet with a pillowcase round my head that night - it was very cold! The first I knew of the fire was not an alarm - it was incredibly dense black smoke billowing up the staircase. I was calm about the fire, as I'd had experience of that kind of situation only a few years before. I was aware how fast it travels, and that there's no time to get your belongings.
Luckily me and my brother were both very tall, so we managed to release the lifeboats on the Promenade Deck - they were hinged to the ceiling and bolted to the floor. All of our family got into the last boat on the port side. We were incredibly lucky. My mother and our nanny couldn't swim, so they were very frightened, but my brother and sister weren't as scared, as they knew how to swim.
We were in the boat for 10 hours - it had no oars or engine. We were found by the MS Salta, an Argentinean ship sailing from Italy to Argentina. It was such a large vessel that it took one and a half hours to manoeuvre it into position to pick us up.
We were taken to Madeira. Most people had lost all their possessions, so Blandys Ship Agency gave a blanket order on all shops on the island - we were allowed to buy whatever we wanted. No one had credit cards back then, so by just signing your name and "Lakonia", you could get what you needed. A waiter had given me his white jacket, which I still have, and someone else had given me a pair of trousers, and another person a scarf.