A BARONET is satisfied that letters discovered in a solicitor’s office, dating back to the aftermath of the Titanic, have finally cleared the name of an ancestor who has been vilified on both sides of the Atlantic following the disaster.

Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon suffered accusations of bribery and cowardice after he and his wife, Lucy survived the sinking of Titanic in April 1912.

While an inquiry later cleared them of any blame, Sir Cosmo wrote to his family about being subjected to “venomous attacks” in national newspapers. He was said to have become “reclusive” until his death in 1931.

His great-nephew, Sir Andrew Duff Gordon, who lives at Old Radnor, near Kington, said the family had never doubted Sir Cosmo’s word.

Sir Andrew, who will be taking part in a special Titanic exhibition at the National Maritime Museum this summer, explained that his great-uncle believed that a degree of suspicion lingered on.

“I never doubted my great-uncle, who was a most upright and self-effacing person,” said Sir Andrew.

A Scottish landowner, Sir Cosmo was wrongly accused of pushing his way on to one of Titanic’s lifeboats, and bribing the crew to row away without picking up survivors in the water.

“We can’t imagine what hell it must have been,” said Sir Andrew, “but my great-uncle’s account of that night shows beyond doubt that he acted honourably.”

Documents and letters written by Sir Cosmo and his wife, a famous fashion designer of her day, came to light in a cardboard box lying for over 100 years in a solicitor's offices.

“I received a phone call out of the blue saying they had found a box with my family name on it and would I like to have it,” said Sir Andrew. “Of course, I said yes.”

The find reveals not just the events of that night, which show beyond doubt that the Duff Gordons acted quite properly, but also includes a long list of Lady Duff Gordon’s possessions.

“My great-aunt had salons in London, Paris, Chicago and in New York, but there was a problem with the lease on one of them,” said Sir Andrew.

“The first boat going to New York was Titanic, and they boarded her at Cherbourg.

“There was lots of competition between the White Star Line and Cunard and they were desperate to break the record to reach New York.”

Sir Andrew believed Titanic might have survived if the ship had hit the iceberg head on.

“She was 60 feet out of the water and sank in two hours,” said Sir Andrew. “Any man who survived that was on a hiding to nothing.”

He said that his great aunt and her secretary were offered a place in a lifeboat.

"But neither woman would go without him,” he said.

At the ship’s stern, the decks were clear and when a small boat appeared with three crewmen in it, Sir Cosmo “politely” asked if they could get in.

The crew explained that they would be out of a job, so on arrival in New York Sir Cosmo gave each man a £5 cheque for their welfare.

“But the press said it was a bribe,” said Sir Andrew. “What an absolutely terrible thing to say, it was complete nonsense.

“It was a terrible scandal and my great uncle never got over it.”

Sir Andrew has been invited on board the Nomadic, Titanic’s tender vessel, which enabled his forbears to join the liner at Cherbourg, and now part of the Titanic museum in Belfast. Sir Andrew has also been asked to assist at a forthcoming exhibition at Greenwich in June.