COWDENBEATH Rotarians were told of the dramatic tale of the Fife woman who was one of the 705 survivors of the Titanic disaster in April 1912.

Members heard on Thursday how the Countess of Rothes, Lucy Noel Martha Leslie, played her part in helping to get one of the lifeboats of the stricken liner to meet up with the RMS Carpathia, which saved hundreds of lives.

The speaker was Linda Ballingall, a woman born and brought up in Benarty, who moved to Glenrothes and has become an expert on the history of the new town and its surrounding area.

She said: “The Countess of Rothes was married to a very successful businessman, who was on a trip to the USA in April 1912 and booked the Countess on the Titanic’s maiden voyage to join up with him in the States.

“I was very fortunate to get hold of her written account of her experiences on the night of April 14/15.”

The Countess’s notes, written the next day while she was on the Carpathia, recalled: “I retired to bed at 11.45pm and experienced a slight jolt soon after.

“We were told by members of the crew that there had been an incident with an iceberg, and to put on warm clothing before being ordered at 1am to board lifeboat number eight.

"We had crewman Thomas Jones organising us, and we all had play our part in rowing, and steering the boat toward the lights of a ship in the distance (the Californian).

“The lights slowly disappeared but we kept rowing as Jones told us that we had to get well away from the Titanic as it could drag us down as it sank.”

The Countess said that they saw the Titanic go down and added: “We rowed throughout the night, and as daylight came up we met the Carpathia and we were taken on board by her crew.

“I did notice that many of the lifeboats that joined us were not full, and many more could have been saved.”

Linda told the Rotarians that both the Countess and her maid were saved by the Carpathia and they never forgot the efforts of Thomas Jones in helping them reach safety. 

She later gave him a special watch as a token of her thanks.

Linda added: “When the Carpathia reached New York the Countess was met by her husband, and by that time she had written her account of her experiences in an event which saw only 705 people saved, with more than 1,500 lost.

“It is amazing to be able to have at our fingertips an on-the-spot account of one of the world’s worst maritime disasters.”