Titanic survivor or storyteller ?

John Butler, a former Mount Gambier councillor, claimed he was a survivor of the famous shipwreck.

By Kate Hill - ABC


"Survivor invited to premiere" was the headline that appeared in Mount Gambier's Border Watch newspaper in April 1959.

The story told of local man John Butler who had been asked to attend the premiere of the new film about the Titanic — A Night to Remember — being the only Australian survivor of the 1912 maritime disaster the theatre was able to locate.

The story spun a tragic tale of the nights events, saying that Mr Butler was one of eight quartermasters on board the fateful cruise liner when it hit the iceberg and how he had been put in charge of Lifeboat No. 7 along with 40 survivors, which "rocked in the icy seas for about 14 hours before its occupants were picked up by rescuers".

The former ward councillor told the Border Watch he would not be attending the Adelaide premiere, because the film would recall "too many memories".

"I do not like to think about it," Mr Butler was quoted as telling the reporter.

"I have never liked to talk about the sinking of the Titanic.

It was an incredible story and one that raised the eyebrows of South Australian historian and author Dave Gittins, who extensively researched the one of the world's greatest maritime tragedies for his book Titanic: Monument and Warning.

"It certainly made a good headline, didn't it ?" he said.

"There is a chapter in my book called Legends, Myths and Ratbaggery — and Mr Butler gets a guernsey."

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