A PROMISE and a toy pig saved an American woman from drowning on the Titanic's maiden voyage 62 years ago.
And since then every penny she has earned from writing about the tragic sea disaster which claimed 1,513 lives has gone to charity.
Now she wants to start a new fund to help sailors, lifeboatmen and the blind, based upon the toy which saved her life.
Edith Russell is small, frail and 95 this month. But she can remember every moment of the night which horrified the world.
"I knew we were doomed before we got on that ship," she said.
"I had a presentiment,. Then the night before we sailed, I went to a fortune teller who said I would lose every bit of jewellery, every one of my possessions, even my voice.
"Don't take the boat you are planning to take", I was told. And the next day when we got alongside the ship I said to someone "I don't want to go".
But she was a newswoman, and she was on business.
The Titanic was 95 miles off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland when her side was gashed open by an iceberg.
Edith Russsell had been dining in a long white satin dress, and was having a nightcap when the iceberg ripped into the luxurious liner.
"Someone rushed up and said: "We've hit an iceberg." Being a newswoman, I grabbed my purse and ran to have a look. Everyone was on deck playing snowballs with bits broken off the iceberg, towering above us, and nobody dreamed there was anay danger.
"Officers told us to go below; and 45 minutes later a man knocked at my door, He said all women and children were to leave the ship at once. "For God's sake, go", he said. And I never saw him again.
She was still in her white dinner dress, grabbed a coat, two scarves, and a cap before snatching up her toy pig.
"My mother gave me this pig as a mascot a year earlier. I'd been in tornadoes and fires and floods. I was always in trouble. Then I was in a motoring accident, and was thrown into the tyre on the back of the car. I rolled clear as it crashed into a tree. Everyone else was killed but me.
"My mother brought me this pig and said "Look here, you crazy thing, I'm giving you a mascot.
"Promise me you'll have it with you always."
Naturally, I intended to keep my promise. And when I rushed up on the deck of the Titanic, that pig was stuck under my arm."
There were only 1,178 lifeboat spaces for the 2,224 aboard. And Edith Russell refused to leave the Titanic. There were other women who had not yet left the sinking ship.
"I struggled as they tried to get me to go. And a sailor said "Well, if you don't want to be saved, I'll save your baby" And he grabbed the pig from under my arm and sent it down to one of the lifeboats.
When I saw that pig go, I said "That does it" and jumped down after it."
"I've written about that night until I am cock-eyed. I've even been technical adviser on the film about it. And in all the years I have earned money from it, in magazines, radio and television, I never accepted a penny for myself. It all went to charity."
When her mother lay dying some years after the Titanic went down, she reminded her of it.
"She told me I had been saved for a reason, and made me promise that every day of my life until I die I would do a kindness to an animal of a human being in need.
"In that way", she told me. "you will be paying your debt and God will let you live in his house rent free for a long time." And she was right. Every day of my life since then, somebody has come to me in trouble.
"I'm not particularly religious. I don't believe in the hereafter. But she told me "I may not be able to break through, but if I can I'll send you people who need help." Who can tell? It happens.
I believe in destiny. Life is an hourglass, and it doesn't run out until your time is up; if you're useful, you're paying your rent.
"Tell the kids this... to pay their rent. Tell them to do a kindness to someone each day of their lives.
"I lost everything I had in the world when the Titanic went down - 19 trunks full. And it took six years of starvation for me to pay my debts. But it taught me that possessions don't bring happiness. I've made friends from all over the world since that day."
She hopes to write a paperback about her experiences - "with all the ghastly things happening in the world, young people still want to know about the Titanic", she says.
And she claims she's never had a nightmare about that dreadful night.
"I'm not afraid of the sea. But I wouldn't go on an airplane if you gave me a million dollars. I know I would burn to death. Something tells me."