Fun Fact Friday – Irma Bentley


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Back in 1935, the museum purchased a lot of figureheads, including a three quarter length figure of a girl with a carved knotted rope around her waist.  Like the other figureheads, her story was unknown until a chance visitor happened upon her in the late 1930’s.



Upon visiting our museum, Mrs. H.L. Shaw recognized this figurehead as one that had been on a ship built in 1908 by her father, George Edward Bentley, of Port Greville, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.  The ship was named Irma Bentley after George’s daughter who was a welcome companion on sailing trips as she did not get sea sick.  The figurehead was carved by an Alfred Nichols and was modeled after young Irma.

After George Bentley sold the ship, the figurehead was lost until the museum purchased it in 1935.  If not for one of George’s daughters visiting the museum, we may never have know the history behind it.  We later received confirmation from George’s wife and daughter Irma about the identity of this ship and Irma was even able to pay us a visit in 1983.

Irma (Bentley) Murray visiting with her figurehead, photograph from Daily Press

6 thoughts on “Fun Fact Friday – Irma Bentley”

  1. Irma Bentley was my grandmother. At the time she cam to the Mariner’s Museum to see her figurehead in 1983, she was the only living person with a figurehead in her image. There was even a parade in Newport News celebrating the union of the sculpture and it’s model.

  2. Suzan Carter Molnar, Ms. Bentley’s maternal granddaughter, and I visited the Mariner’s museum in about 2001. When we related the story to the staff present they rolled out the red carpet and had a nicely restored figurehead of Irma Bentley on display there. I am grateful that Mrs. Bentley was able to see her figurehead one last time before her death in 1986.

    David and Suzan Molnar