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Titanic artefacts go on display telling story of Scottish countess

The plight of a Scottish countess who narrowly avoided death in the sinking of the Titanic will be told through a series of mementoes linked to the ill-fated ship in a display at a venue hosting a play about the vessel.

A number plate from a Titanic lifeboat, a pocket watch, a china plate and a letter written by the countess will be exhibited at Rothes Halls in Glenrothes, Fife.

The display runs in tandem with The Man Who Left The Titanic – a play that will be performed on September 9 at the venue.

The letter was written by Noel, Countess of Rothes, of Leslie House, on the outskirts of present-day Glenrothes, and was sent to her husband Norman, the 19th Earl of Rothes.

The earl was said to be “anxiously awaiting her arrival in New York”, where the pair had planned to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

The countess gifted the pocket watch to seaman Thomas Jones as a thank-you for saving her life.

A pocket watch previously gifted to a seaman who saved a countess' life
The pocket watch was previously gifted to a seaman who saved the life of the countess (Glenrothes & Area Heritage Centre/PA)

Mr Jones in turn gave the countess a number plate from the lifeboat.

The china saucer was produced exclusively for the ship by owner and shipping line White Star Line.

The four items are part of the Leslie-Rothes collection and have been granted permanent loan to the Glenrothes & Area Heritage Centre.

They were provided by trustees of the Clan Leslie Charitable Trust.

The pocket watch has not been on display since 2012, and the other items were last on show in March 2020, shortly before the first Covid lockdown..

All four objects will remain on display after the play, meaning those who miss it will still have a chance to visit the exhibition.

Glenrothes & Area Heritage Centre chair Linda Ballingall said: “We’re thrilled that we can exhibit these treasured objects once more and offer people such valuable insights into the tragedy.”

Karen Taylor, programme manager with cultural charity OnFife, which runs Rothes Halls, said: “The Titanic story still fascinates so many of us. These exhibits, with their local connection, will help bring it to life for audience members.”

The Man Who Left The Titanic explores White Star Line’s chairman, Joseph Bruce Ismay, who fled the ship as it sank, leaving around 1,500 passengers and crew to perish.