Grace Darling by Britain Unlimited Daughter of a lighthouse keeper in the Farne Islands,
off the Northumberland coast. She became famous for helping her father
rescue survivors from the wreck of a ship, the "Forfarshire"
and became a national lifeboat heroine
When and Where was she Born?
24th November 1815, Bamburgh, Northumberland
in her Grandfather's cottage.
Grace Darling's grandfather Job Horsley was
a gardener to the Crew Trustees. Grace was the fourth daughter out
of nine children of William Darling Principal Keeper of the Longstone
Lighthouse on the Farne Isles and his wife Thomasin.
Although her brothers went to the free school
at Bamburgh Castle run by the Crew Trust, Grace did not. There are
some accounts that she went to Bessie Crawford's boarder school at
Spittal, near Berwick-upon-Tweed for a time but this was not substantiated
by Grace, who said she received her education, especially in Geography,
from her father.
of Grace Darling
Lived at the Brownsman Lighthouse in the Farne Islands with her
family where they lived a self-sufficient lifestyle keeping their
1824: Trinity House
take over as sole lighthouse authority.
1826: (15th February)
Moved to the newly built Longstone Lighthouse when Grace was ten
but still had to tend their livestock and gardens on Brownsman which
was difficult in bad weather. This light was further out to sea
to protect shipping from the hazardous series of rocks and small
1834: First launching
of the 150 ton steamship "Forfarshire" at Dundee.
1838: (7th September)
At 4 a.m. the steamship "Forfarshire", on route
from Hull to Dundee with a cargo of cloths and hardware, struck
the rocks on Big Harcar (Then known as Harker's rock) and broke
in two. The boilers had earlier leaked and the engines finally gave
up leaving the vessel to drift southwards towards the shore in a
At quarter to 5 in the morning Grace spotted the stricken ship from
her window. It was not until 7 that she and her father spotted survivors
on the reef. Her father (52) and herself (22) decided to set out
in the family cobble boat to help as they feared that the lifeboats
from nearby Bamburgh or North Sunderland would not be able to be
launched in such bad weather. They set off to approach the wreck
from the south in the lee of the storm. Once there they found nine
people alive including a Mrs. Dawson holding the bodies of her two
dead children. The cobble could not accommodate them all and five
people were taken off. Once they were landed at the lighthouse William
Darling and two of the rescued crewmen from the "Forfarshire"
set out again for a second trip to take the remaining people off.
They arrived back at the lighthouse by 9 a.m. Miraculously, later
that day a lifeboat from the "Forfarshire" was
sighted by a Sloop which took off another nine survivors and landed
them at Tynemouth.
(11th September). The Tuesday following the wreck was the date of
the first inquest which took place at Bamburgh under the initiative
of Robert Smeddle, Secretary of the Crew Trustees. It was convened
at the House of Mr. Hugh Ross, now the Victoria Hotel and as the
local coroner was away Smeddle pressed the services of the Newcastle
Coroner. The jury, including some of the survivors, was hostile
and there was no surprise at the result. "Wrecked due to the
imperfections of the boilers and the culpable negligence of Captain
Humble". Humble and his wife had both perished in the wreck.
(1st October) When the body of William Doughty, a fireman on the
"Forfarshire", was washed up another inquest was held
at Hugh Ross's house. This time Mr. Just the manager of the shipping
line was invited. Some of the statements of the crew about the boilers
being faulty and the passengers insistence that the Captain should
put back to port were contradicted and this time it was decided
that the ship had come to grief purely because of the tempestuousness
of the weather. Grace was to be visited by all sorts of interested
people immediately after the story broke in the "Newcastle
Journal" and she was besieged by people wanting locks of her
hair. Many poets, including William Wordsworth
himself praised her heroism in verse. There were also requests for
her to appear at the Adelphi Theatre in London and at Batty's Equestrian
Circus in Edinburgh, complete with offers of large sums of money.
Grace being extremely modest refused all of these. Many public subscriptions
were also raised in her honour, but although they raised large sums
and touched the hearts of all in the land including Queen Victoria
she never touched a penny. Awards were showered on her including
Silver Medals from the Royal National Institute for the Preservation
of Life from Shipwreck (Later to become the Royal National Lifeboat
Institution) and the Gold Medallion from the Royal Humane Society.
1841: Grace had continued
to live with her parents at Longstone Lighthouse but by now her
health had become a problem. At the end of the year she moved to
stay with a family friend, George Shield, in Wooler where it was
thought the air would be beneficial. As there was no improvement
she moved to Alnwick where she was attended by the Duchess of Northumberland's
own physician. She then moved back to Bamburgh to stay at the house
of her sister Thomasin who cared for her lovingly right up until
Grace Darling Museum, Royal National Lifeboat
Institution, 1 Radcliffe Road, Bamburgh.
(Contains the actual cobble boat from the rescue, Grace's dress
and other clothing as well as many other artifacts from both the
Darling family and the wrecked "Forfarshire".