Doña Fermina Oliva y Ocaña, First Class Passenger

Translation provided by Titanic researcher José Martinez.

3rd November, 1959

The Spanish newspaper "ABC" interviewed Doña Fermina Oliva y Ocaña, Mrs Peñasco's maid, on 3rd November of 1959. Then aged 87, she was interviewed for the premiere of the British film "A Night to Remember" in Spain, where it is said she would be in attendance.

Below is reproduced part of the interview of this First Class Spanish Survivor:

'[...] Her memory, of course, is not very good. But when she talks about the "great adventure of her life," her words and gestures rise prodigiously to the scene.

"- I have traveled much, very much ... England, Canada, New York, Paris a thousand times, the whole of Africa ... That year [1912] we were in Paris, I was accompanying a married couple of newlyweds [Mr Victor Peñasco and Mrs Josefa Peñasco] when they decided to take the "Titanic" to New York.

Suddenly, it scared me and I did not want to go. I remember the "Reina Regente", which had sunk in the Strait, and I had a bad feeling ...But they embarked. The "Titanic" was unsinkable, they were told. They had never traveled more luxuriously and safely ... until that night. We'd just gone to bed, [and] we were in First [Class]. I was entertaining myself a little by sewing my corset and as soon as I laid down on the bed, the ship stopped suddenly. What has happened? [I asked] "It's nothing, it's nothing", said the employees. But we got on deck and found out the truth. "Oh my God! Oh my God!". We went down to put on the lifejackets and, then we realized, the boats were already full [?]. There was not [lifeboats] for everyone, as you know.

Q. Did you get seating all three?
A. Only the Señora [Mrs Peñasco] who I served. She took leave forever from her husband and entered into one boat [Lifeboat # 8].

Q. And you?
A. I was left [on the deck?]. But I started screaming, desperate, and they had no choice but to take me. They threw me like a straw bag for over a metre high [thrown a metre down?], when the boat was already being lowered.

Q. Were men going with you?
A. On that boat many were not going. Two threw themselves into the boat from the Second Class Deck and one of them broke his leg.

Q. How was the sea?
A. At first, it was quiet. Our boat pulled away from the "Titanic". We were dead cold. I occasionally turned back my head and looked at the tiny windows [portholes] as they were sinking in the sea ... I got sick, but I kept clinging to the "nose" [bow?] of the boat. That was horrible! That was horrible! and soon began the temporal [the final phase of the sinking?].

Q. But you would take good sailors?
A. No. The boat was lead by a Countess [Lucy Noël Martha, Countess of Rothes] ... At daybreak, waves buffeted us so much that nobody could keep the boat afloat. We believed we could never reach the "Carpathia", the ship that first came to our aid; [it was] so close we watched it ...

Q. Until they picked you up? [?]
A. Yes, everyone [was] half dead. I was very bad [for] many months. Two men died on the "Carpathia", frozen, and were buried at two [... o'clock? during daytime? ].

Q. Did you save some of your luggage?
A. Nothing. I only took a stamp [?] of San José [Roman Catholic Saint] I had above my bed. I place it under my lifejacket and I prayed to him. I never regret having choosen that stamp between so many things that I could take.

Q. Worst thing about that night?
A. The fear of staying on the ship. It was the most terrifying moment of my life. Every time I remember, I think it just happened and I was just saved miraculously ...


1. Spelling and punctuation have been preserved, where possible.

2. The "Reina Regente" was a Spanish ship which disappeared under the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, in 1893, with its crew of 420 men while sailing from Tangier (Morocco) to Cadiz (Spain).

3. It is hard to believe when they just go on deck, in the first phase of the sinking (23:40-01:00), they already presaged the worst or imagined that the ship was going to sink. Maybe it was the apprehension ?

4. It is hard to believe the cumbersome climb into the lifeboat when she says, "They threw me like a straw bag for over a meter high, when the boat was already being lowered."

5. She said once her boat was in the water or during the lowering "Two [men] threw themselves into the boat from the Second Class Deck and one of them broke his leg". There is no evidence that in Lifeboat # 8 two men got in by such a fashion, either throwing themselves during the lowering or when afloat at sea. Second class men could not jump off from their deck, because this boat pulled away by passing the bow and the said deck was aft.

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