Grace Darling

Posted: August 1, 2016 in History, Northumberland, UK
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When Sue and I visited Northumbria we visited the Grace Darling Museum.

 

Grace Darling by Thomas Musgrove (c) Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Grace Darling by Thomas Musgrove (c) Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Grace Darling was born in Bamburgh in November 1815, one of 9 children. A few weeks after her birth, her father took up the position of Lighthouse keeper on Brownsman Island in the Farne Islands. There had been a light here for many years first as a fire tower and later as a lighthouse. The family had a small holding and were able to hunt rabbits.

The Lighthouse on Brownsman Island (base at end of cottage). The original fire-tower stands to the left of the cottage.

The Lighthouse on Brownsman Island (base at the end of the cottage). The original fire-tower stands to the left of the cottage.

One problem was that the location of Brownsman was was not the best site for a lighthouse in the Farnes and so in 1826, the Darling family moved to a new Lighthouse on the rocky outcrop of Longstone Island. Because there was no workable land on Longstone  the family continued to work the holding on Brownsman.

Longstone Lighthouse

Longstone Lighthouse

On the evening of 7th September 1838, Grace was looking from a window when she saw the wreck of the ship Forfarshire on nearby Big Harcar, Calling her father they agreed that the seas were too rough for the lifeboat to put out from Seahouses, so she and her father (none of her brothers were present on Longstone at the time) set out in a rowing boat for the nearby Islands. Arriving at Big Harcar, Grace held the boat off the rocks whilst her father clambered on the island to help the survivours. The first journey back took a group of survivors including the single woman to survive. Then some crew members rowed back to rescue the remaining survivors. A while later the lifeboat from Seahouses did arrive at Big Harcar but found no further survivors and finding that they could not row back to the mainland, they also made for Longstone lighthouse – one of the crew was Grace’s brother William. The Darlings rescued 9 people and a further 9 were picked up from a lifeboat by a passing boat. The total complement of the Forfarshire had been 62 people.

The wreck of the Forfarshire(c) Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The wreck of the Forfarshire(c) Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The story of the rescue spread and Grace found herself a national heroine. She and her father were awarded the silver medal for bravery. A trust fund was set up for Grace and included a donation of £50 from Queen Victoria. 12 portrait artists made the journey to Longstone to paint her picture.

In 1842 Grace became sick whilst visiting relatives on the mainland. She went to stay in Alnwick but when the Duke of Northumberland, who was trustee of her trust fund, heard he had her transferred to  Alnwick Castle. However her condition continued to deteriorate and she returned to the house in Bamburgh where she died in October 1842 at the age of 26. She was buried in Bamburgh churchyard. Two memorials were erected, one on Gt Farne Island and one in Bamburgh churchyard.

Grace darling Tombstone By Nicholas Jackson - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20177519

Grace darling Tombstone By Nicholas Jackson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20177519

 

Memorial in Bamburgh Churchyard

Memorial in Bamburgh Churchyard

The Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh originally opened in 1938. It re-opened in 2007 following refurbishment telling the story of life in a lighthouse on the Farnes together with the story of Grace Darling and the Forfarshire.

The lifeboat in nearby Seahouses is named The Grace Darling in her memory.

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