Fraserburgh's Titanic Connections
by Billy Watson
Deputy Lifeboat Press Officer, Fraserburgh.
Fraserburgh Lifeboat's Titanic Connection
Fraserburgh Lifeboat Crewman Stephen Brown and Coxswain Victor Sutherland with photographs of Titanic survivor Lucy Noël Martha Leslie, Countess of Rothes and Fraserburgh's first motorized lifeboat the Lady Rothes gifted to Fraserburgh in 1915 by her grateful father, Thomas Dyer-Edwardes.
Lucy Noël Martha Leslie, the Countess of Rothes was aboard Titanic with her cousin Gladys Cherry and her maid Roberta Maioni on the night it sank on its maiden voyage. They occupied cabin B-77, and were travelling on Ticket no 110152 which had cost £86 10s.
They were rescued in lifeboat 8. Able seaman Thomas Jones immediately recognised her leadership qualities and put her in charge of steering the boat and later presented her with its brass number plate.
The countess's wealthy father Thomas Dyer –Edwardes in an act of gratitude for his only daughter surviving the sinking of the Titanic provided the funds for the town's first motorized lifeboat in 1915. At the formal presentation in August that year attended by thousands at Fraserburgh Harbour Mr Dyer Edwardes named the new lifeboat “Lady Rothes” and he and his daughter were pictured amongst the dignitaries going for a sail in her in front of the present lifeboat station.
Within 4 days The Lady Rothes was called out on its first service rescuing 14 crew men of the steamer GLENRAVEL which had been captured and sunk with bombs in the North Sea 25 miles North of Fraserburgh by the German submarine U-17 whilst on a voyage from Belfast to Leith with general cargo.
Coxswain Victor Sutherland said that the motorised lifeboat had arrived just in time as until then the crew had to use oars. The Lady Rothes became the longest serving Fraserburgh Lifeboat rescuing 65 people in the next 22 years.
The Lady Rothes was involved in the first of 3 Fraserburgh Lifeboat disasters in 1919 when it capsized with the loss of 2 crewmen. No blame was attached to the crew or the boat, but to freak conditions. With minimal damage to the boat it was repaired and served for another 16 years until it was replaced by the “John and Charles Kennedy” in 1937.
The "COSMO and CHARLES"
Another high profile survivor of the Titanic had family connections with a benefactor who provided not one but two Fraserburgh Lifeboats.
While doing research on the Lady Rothes connection another passenger's name kept appearing, that of Lucy Lady Duff Gordon (née Sutherland) who was a leading fashion designerin the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
She was married to Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff-Gordon, wealthy Scottish landowner and Olympic silver medallist who also survived the Titanic
Sir Cosmo's reputation took a hit though for a while as he was accused of having bribed crew members to let him and his wife on to lifeboat number 1 when the Titanic started to sink. He was later cleared at an enquiry.
2 previous Fraserburgh lifeboats “Cosmo and Charles” had been bought out of gifts in 1880 and 1887 from Captain A H Gordon of Fyvie Castle in memory of his 2 brothers, “William Cosmo Gordon” and “Charles William Gordon”
Sir Cosmo's father, Cosmo Lewis Duff-Gordon and Captain Alexander Hendry Gordon were cousins.
Below is the model of The “Cosmo and Charles” Lifeboat in Fraserburgh Heritage Centre
The Role of the Marconigram
The 705 survivors of the Titanic owe their lives to a number of factors, mainly getting a place in the lifeboats and being picked up within hours by the Carpathia which had been nearly 60 miles away when the huge liner had sunk.
The Carpathia had responded immediately to Marconigrams sent by a selfless Marconi operator, Jack Philips who ultimately lost his life. This was cutting edge technology at the time, wireless communication over water had only just been developed by Marconi. How long the survivors would have lasted in the freezing conditions in an open boat without proper clothing and without any food is anybody's guess. The casualty list would have been a lot higher than it was had the Carpathia not arrived when it did. Is it too much to suggest that without the Marconigrams there would have been no Carpathia and therefore no survivors.
If so then Fraserburgh can be very proud of the part it played in Marconi's development of radio
In a mock up of Marconi's experimental radio shack of 1904 at Fraserburgh Heritage Centre volunteers demonstrate a forerunner
of the equipment which Jack Philips used to save the 705 survivors of the Titanic a few years later.
Pointing to the area on the old Broadsea, Fraserburgh Model where Marconi had his radio shack and carried out his experiments in 1904.
CLICK for Fraserburgh Lifeboat display.