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.
Chronology/Biography of Grace
1815: (December): Lived
at the Brownsman Lighthouse in the Farne Islands with her family where
they lived a self-sufficient lifestyle keeping their own livestock.
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 islands.
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 howling gale.
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 her
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".