The last Titanic survivor in desperate straits

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Almost 100 years after it dipped below the waves of the Atlantic, the supposedly unsinkable ocean liner still exerts a powerful hold on our collective imagination. It was heralded as an engineering triumph, yet succumbed to the forces of nature on its maiden voyage. Among the 1,517 who perished were the rich, the poor, and those in between.

The fascination is such that recently an enthusiast wrote to [Millvina Dean ], offering 100 pounds for a lock of hair. Even she - a veteran of the Titanic convention circuit since 1985 - is somewhat bemused.

"The girls chopped a bit of hair off and put some red ribbon around it and said: 'that's the last you'll hear from him'," she says, a smile spreading across her face.

"But he sent the cheque. I wrote back to say he'd restored my faith in people's honesty."

This anecdote has a more serious side. The spinster is struggling with monthly bills of about £3,000 and is in danger of losing her room at her Southampton nursing home.

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