Imagine being a young women of twenty-two, rowing in the North Sea through horrendous weather. Thatís exactly what Grace Horsley Darling did on 5th September 1838. She had observed through a telescope a stricken vessel aground on the Big Harar Rocks off Farne Islands. Grace was the daughter of William Darling being the Lighthouse Keeper of the Longstone Light House. Also his wife Thamasin Horsley Darling their other daughter lived on the main land.
That terrible September night the steamer S.S.Forfarshire was on its way to Dundee with a valuable cargo and forty-one passengers plus crew. When a terrible storm blew up the worst encountered for many a year. On seeing the ship aground Grace urged her father to take the long boat and they rowed together into the eye of the storm. The waves were crashing and tossing the little boat, The atrocious conditions would have put the fear of God into any man, but Grace battled on in determination. On reaching the vessel Grace and her father had the strength to pull nine seamen onto their boat. They rowed and rowed till they had them safely back at the lighthouse. Unknown to Grace and her father the forty-one passengers had already perished before they had reached the steamer.
Grace became quite a celebrity of her day, but she tried to avoid the publicity. Continuing to stay in the lighthouse with her parents. The nine seamen gave Grace a gold locket with a lock from each of their hair. Six years later Grace left the lighthouse to visit her sister and caught influenza and died of pneumonia aged twenty-eight and is buried at Bamburgh Church, Northumberland. Grace is now the heroine of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and when the lifeboats go out to sea they feel Grace Darling goes with them.
Joyce Gale 2004
Read more articles by Joyce Gale or search for articles on the same topic or others.