OVER 3000 people have already visited the ‘Titanic’ centenary exhibition in Glenrothes, it has emerged.
And on Saturday evening descendants of the Countess of Rothes joined organisers and other guests at a reception - 100 years to the day since the ship hit an iceberg and sank.
Glenrothes Area Heritage Centre has been making its contribution to events worldwide marking the centenary, recalling the part played by the Leslie-based noblewoman in the aftermath of the 1912 disaster.
The exhibition - which will run until June 2 - includes archive photographs, films, newspapers and extracts from the journal which the Countess, Noelle, kept on the ship which rescued her from the lifeboat in which she took refuge.
It also features a plaque bearing the number 8 taken from the lifeboat and presented to the Countess by Able Seaman Jones - who commanded the craft - and the watch which she presented to him in return.
The reception was attended by the Countess’s grandson, Alistair Leslie, her great-grandson and other members of the family, the Lord-Lieutenant of Fife, Mrs Margaret Dean amongst others.
They heard GAHC chairwoman, Linda Ballingall, say that the exhibition was another crucial step on the way to a permanent heritage centre being opened.
She pointed out that Glenrothes wasn’t simply “that place full of roundabouts”, but was one of the most successful new towns in Britain and “can offer as rich a heritage to boast of as Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, St Andrews or Cupar”.
Linda added: “Who would have thought that Glenrothes would have a genuine reason to stage an exhibition based on one of the most legendary maritime disasters in history, that one of the acclaimed heroines of that terrible night had once lived in nearby Leslie House, or that Fife’s capital town would eventually be built on lands once owned by her husband’s ancestral family.
“This is what we hope to provide to our townspeople - a sense of pride in where they live.”
Since the first ‘taster’ exhibition was held in September, 2010, attracting 11,500 people in a four week run, GAHC had formed a board of trustees, attained charitable status and formed a link with Leslie Charitable Trust.
“We’re still in the process of locating the right premises, but are hopeful of a good outcome.”
Linda also paid tribute to GAHC trustees, including vice-chairwoman Julie MacDougall, who organised the reception, Bill Feit who carried out the research for the exhibition and David Brown, who designed it, as well as website manager and photographer Ian Sloan, treasurer Jan Clark and the many volunteers who have been ‘manning the decks’ at the Kingdom Centre unit, including Anne Mirtle and Jim Mitchell.
The audience also heard speeches from Alistair Leslie, who recalled his life with the Countess and Mrs Dean, who praised the exhibition and those involved in it.
Actress Rochelle Rose, who played the Countess in 1997’s blockbuster movie ‘Titanic’ has added her congratulations.
Speaking from her Hollywood home, to which she had just returned after attending the premiere of the 3D version of director James Cameron’s epic, the 39 year-old told the ‘Gazette’: “I wish I was in Fife this weekend to see the exhibition and meet the Countess’ descendants.
“It seems like it will be an extraordinary experience.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to meet the Countess’ family when I was doing my research and so that would be amazing
“I would also love to read the Countess‘s account of her time on the ship.”
Recalling her preparations for filming the part, she said: “I think it would have been different today with the Internet being available, and there wasn’t so much stuff about her personal life available as there is now, so my research for the role concentrated on what things were happening at the time.
“James Cameron, who directed the film, cast me and he always treated me as being the Countess - whenever he saw me on the set he would always kiss my hand! - because he wanted everyone to be totally engaged with the movie.
“I thought it might be of interest to your readers that a new biography has just been published about the Countess, an e-book titled ‘Lifeboat No. 8‘ .”
ALL PICTURES COURTESY OF IAN SLOAN, EXCEPT MAIN, COURTESY OF ROCHELLE ROSE.