Grace Horsley Darling (24 November 1815 20 October 1842) was an English1 Victorian2 heroine who in 1838, along with her father, saved 13 people from the wreck of the SS Forfarshire3.

edit Biography

Grace was born in 1814 at Bamburgh4 in Northumberland5 and spent her youth in two lighthouses6, (Brownsman7 and Longstone8), of which her father, William, was the keeper.In the early hours of 7 September 1838, Grace, looking from an upstairs window of the Longstone Lighthouse9 on the Farne Islands10, spotted the wreck and survivors of the ship, SS Forfarshire11 on Big Harcar12, a nearby low rocky island. The Forfarshire had foundered on the rocks and broken in half: one of the halves had sunk during the night.She and her father, William determined that the weather was too rough for the lifeboat13 to put out from Seahouses14 (then North Sunderland15), so they took a rowing boat16 (a 21 ft, 4-man Northumberland coble17) across to the survivors, taking a long route that kept to the lee side of the islands, a distance of nearly a mile. Grace kept the coble steady in the water while her father helped four men and the lone surviving woman, Mrs.

Dawson, into the boat. Although she survived the sinking, Mrs Dawson had lost her two young children during the night. William, with three of the rescued men then rowed the fourth man, Mrs.

Dawson and Grace back to the lighthouse. Grace then remained at the lighthouse while William and three of the rescued crew members rowed back and recovered the remaining survivors.Meanwhile the lifeboat had set out from Seahouses but arrived at Big Harcar rock after Grace and her father had completed the rescue: all they found were the dead bodies of Mrs Dawson’s children and of a vicar18. It was too dangerous to return to North Sunderland so they rowed to the lighthouse to take shelter.

Grace’s brother, William Brooks Darling, was one of the seven fishermen in the lifeboat. The weather deteriorated to the extent that everyone was obliged to remain at the lighthouse for three days before returning to shore.The Forfarshire had been carrying 63 people. The vessel broke in two almost immediately upon hitting the rocks.

Those rescued by Grace and her father were from the bow section of the vessel which had been held by the rocks for some time before sinking. All that remained at daybreak was the portside paddlebox casing. Nine other passengers and crew had managed to float off a lifeboat from the stern section before it too sank and were picked up in the night by a passing Montrose19 sloop20 and brought into South Shields21 that same night.1Grace Darling died of tuberculosis22 in 1842, aged 27.

edit Legacy

Grace is buried with her father and mother in a modest grave in St.

Aidan s churchyard23, Bamburgh24, where a nearby elaborate cenotaph25 commemorates her life. A plain stone monument to her was erected in St. Cuthbert s Chapel on Great Farne Island26 in 1848.Grace s achievement was celebrated in her lifetime: she received a large financial reward in addition to the plaudits of the nation.

A number of fictionalized depictions propagated the Grace Darling legend, such as Grace Darling, or the Maid of the Isles by Jerrold Vernon (1839), which gave birth to the legend of the girl with windswept hair . Her deed was committed to verse by William Wordsworth27 in his poem Grace Darling (1843). A lifeboat with her name was presented to Holy Island28.

One of a series of Victorian paintings by William Bell Scott29 at Wallington Hall30 in Northumberland depicts her rescue.At Bamburgh, there is a museum dedicated to her achievements and the seafaring life of the region. It re-opened in December 2007 following renovation. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution31 Mersey class lifeboat32 at Seahouses33 bears the name Grace Darling.Singer/songwriter Dave Cousins34 of Strawbs35 wrote Grace Darling (on Ghosts36) in tribute and as a love song.

North East musical playwright Dennis A Westgate wrote a musical based on the life of Grace Darling, exploring her life from childhood through to her death in 1842.

The premier was performed by a community theatre company based in York, The York Stars37, July 2010 to help promote Grace Darling and the work of the RNLI.It was suggested by Richard Armstrong in his 1965 biography Grace Darling: Maid and Myth that she may have suffered from a cleft lip38.

He is the only biographer to put forward this theory, which has been strongly disputed by other experts.


  1. ^ England (en.wikipedia.org)
  2. ^ Victorian era (en.wikipedia.org)
  3. ^ SS Forfarshire (ship) (en.wikipedia.org)
  4. ^ Bamburgh (en.wikipedia.org)
  5. ^ Northumberland (en.wikipedia.org)
  6. ^ Lighthouse (en.wikipedia.org)
  7. ^ Brownsman (page does not exist) (en.wikipedia.org)
  8. ^ Longstone Lighthouse (en.wikipedia.org)
  9. ^ Longstone Lighthouse (en.wikipedia.org)
  10. ^ Farne Islands (en.wikipedia.org)
  11. ^ SS Forfarshire (ship) (en.wikipedia.org)
  12. ^ Big Harcar (page does not exist) (en.wikipedia.org)
  13. ^ Lifeboat (rescue) (en.wikipedia.org)
  14. ^ Seahouses (en.wikipedia.org)
  15. ^ North Sunderland (en.wikipedia.org)
  16. ^ Rowing boat (en.wikipedia.org)
  17. ^ Coble (en.wikipedia.org)
  18. ^ Vicar (en.wikipedia.org)
  19. ^ Montrose, Angus (en.wikipedia.org)
  20. ^ Sloop (en.wikipedia.org)
  21. ^ South Shields (en.wikipedia.org)
  22. ^ Tuberculosis (en.wikipedia.org)
  23. ^ Churchyard (en.wikipedia.org)
  24. ^ Bamburgh (en.wikipedia.org)
  25. ^ Cenotaph (en.wikipedia.org)
  26. ^ Great Farne Island (en.wikipedia.org)
  27. ^ William Wordsworth (en.wikipedia.org)
  28. ^ Lindisfarne (en.wikipedia.org)
  29. ^ William Bell Scott (en.wikipedia.org)
  30. ^ Wallington Hall (en.wikipedia.org)
  31. ^ Royal National Lifeboat Institution (en.wikipedia.org)
  32. ^ Mersey class lifeboat (en.wikipedia.org)
  33. ^ Seahouses (en.wikipedia.org)
  34. ^ Dave Cousins (en.wikipedia.org)
  35. ^ Strawbs (en.wikipedia.org)
  36. ^ Ghosts (Strawbs album) (en.wikipedia.org)
  37. ^ The York Stars (www.theyorkstars.com)
  38. ^ Cleft lip (en.wikipedia.org)