Grace Darling

The Longstone Light

Grace Darling

Anyone who knows the story about Grace Darling will no doubt want to allow a bit of time after visiting Bamburgh Castle to come and see the Grace Darling Museum.

The location is easy to find as it’s at the top of the village directly opposite St. Aidan’s Church.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Grace Darling I’ll attempt to put into words what this remarkable young woman did to achieve the fame that she so richly deserved.

Grace was born in her grandfather’s cottage (a few doors up from the museum) on 24th November 1815, but after a few weeks was taken to Brownsman Island, one of the Outer Farne Islands, where her father was the lighthouse keeper.

Grace Darling's Birthplace

The family lived there until 1826 when the Brownsman Light was replaced with one on the Longstone, an island even further out.

For William, his wife Thomasin, and their nine children it was a tough existence. The seas around the Farne Islands were – and still are – notoriously dangerous, and it was on the morning of 7th September 1838, that The Forfarshire, a steamboat on passage from Hull to Dundee, got into serious difficulties and struck the west point of Big Harcar Island. Almost immediately the ship broke in half and was swept away with more than 48 people on board.

Nameplate from the Forfarshire in the Olde Ship, Seahouses
Nameplate from the Forfarshire in the Olde Ship, Seahouses

From her bedroom window on the Longstone Light, Grace spotted the wreck. It was early morning and still dark, but as the light improved the Darlings could make out some survivors on the rock. Believing that a rescue from the nearest lifeboat wouldn’t succeed, William and his 22-year-old daughter launched their coble (boat) into the water and rowed for a mile in treacherous seas and amongst dangerous rocks to get to the survivors.

When they got there, they found one woman and eight men still alive. William scrambled onto the rocks leaving Grace to handle the boat. William was no spring chicken, and he later said that ‘the worst moment of his entire life was when he had to leave his cherished daughter to fend for herself in the open sea’.

They only had enough room in the boat for the woman, an injured man and three others, which meant that William and two of the men had to make a return trip to complete the rescue while Grace and her mother looked after the first batch of survivors.

Rocks around the Longstone
Rocks around the Longstone

There’s no doubt that this was one incredible rescue, and Grace became a reluctant heroine overnight. She played down her part in the affair, and wasn’t completely comfortable with her fame.

Within four years she had contracted tuberculosis and died in her father’s arms in Bamburgh, aged just twenty-six. She was buried in the family grave in St Aidan’s Churchyard opposite the building that now houses the Grace Darling Museum.

The Grace Darling Museum
The Grace Darling Museum

The museum is run by the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution). It’s free to go in and you can see the coble that was used in the rescue – now named Grace Darling. There are some other interesting bits and pieces including the original headstone of the family grave.

The Coble used in the rescue
The Coble used in the rescue
07
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
The original Family Headstone
The original Family Headstone

To see the grave with its replacement headstone, cross the road and go into the graveyard of St. Aidan’s. The grave isn’t difficult to find, but there’s also a memorial to Grace Darling so make sure you don’t confuse the two.

The Darling Family grave with the replacement headstone
The Darling Family grave with the replacement headstone
St. Aidan's Church
St. Aidan's Church

While you’re here make sure that you pay a visit inside this lovely church. St Aidan was the missionary who brought Christianity to this part of the world, and it was here that he died. He is buried on Lindisfarne, but everything will become clearer when I write about one of the most spiritual places I know. (Coming soon).

The Chancel inside St. Aidan's
The Chancel inside St. Aidan's

As influential as St. Aidan was to this part of the country, I wouldn’t mind betting that as many people, if not more, come up here to the top of the village to see where Grace Darling was born, rather than to see where St. Aidan died.

The Grace Darling Memorial
The Grace Darling Memorial

Below is a music clip of a song by The Strawbs called Grace Darling which they released in 1975.

print
Please follow and like us:
error

12 thoughts on “Grace Darling

  1. Alli Templeton

    Another great post, Malc. She was indeed a great lady, and modest with it! Many of today’s celebrities and politicians could learn from her example. Bamburgh is one of our favourite places in Northumberland, aside from it’s glorious beach and it’s castle, I love it’s connections with the Saxon saints. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      I couldn’t agree more Alli. People need to take a step back sometimes to see what their aims in life are really all about.

      Reply
  2. toonsarah

    A great tribute to a remarkable young woman indeed. My grandmother was called Grace and always used to tell us she was named for Grace Darling and tell us her story – but she was very prone to embroidering a tale and mixing fact and fantasy so it’s equally possible that sharing the same name she became interested in the heroine and convinced herself that she was named after her!

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Another reason to visit Bamburgh next year I would say Sarah. You seem to be gathering a fair bit of interest 🙂

      Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      LOL. I know that Mike at Bit about Britain wrote a post about her recently. He’s excellent and bringing a book out about Britain shortly which should be very good

      Reply
  3. barbarara49

    Thanks for such a detailed post on the life of Grace Darling – a heroine of my childhood introduced to me by my father in one of the many bed time stories he told us – always making sure as many of the subjects were equally matched – male and female ( we were a family of two girls and two boys).
    We all loved the story of Grace Darling and never tired of hearing it.
    I selected a famous painting of the rescue and submitted it to the FB Sea and Riverscape paintings Group sometime last year. The bed-time tales our fathers told us never fade away!

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      I’m always pleased to hear that I’ve brought back some more memories for you Barbara. Good memories are a wonderful thing, but poor Grace Darling didn’t live long enough to have too many did she ?

      Reply
      1. barbarara49

        No she certainly didn’t Malcolm. I believe that brave young woman died of TB only a few years after the rescue.

        Reply

Please feel free to leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.