Grace Darling was born in her grandfather’s cottage on November 24, 1815. Her legacy remains for the heroic actions she took to rescue survivors of the shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838.
Grace’s father ran the lighthouse in Bamburgh, so when the newly constructed lighthouse on Longstone Island was completed in 1826, Grace and her family moved to the island. Although the new lighthouse provided a better position to guide ships to safety as well as better accommodation, the island was less hospitable and required rowing back to Brownsman for supplies.
In 1838, peering out from the upstairs window in the early hours of the 7th September, Grace spotted the survivors from the paddle steamer SS Forfarshire clinging to a nearby low rocky island.
The Forfarshire had been travelling from Hull to Dundee on a stormy night. They were having difficulties with the engine boilers when the ship hit the rocks, killing nearly all 60 passengers.
Darling and her father William braved the stormy seas in a rowing boat, Grace kept the boat from nearing the rocks whilst her father helped four men and one woman off the island. They rowed the boat back to the lighthouse where Grace tended to the survivors, her father and three of the rescued crew members rowed back out and recovered four more survivors.
The storm persisted for three more days, forcing everyone to remain in the lighthouse before returning to shore. As news travelled of Darling’s heroic actions, Grace became a national heroine. She was awarded the Silver Medal for bravery by the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck and donations were raised for her totalling over £700. She was bombarded with letters, gifts, even marriage proposals, along with portrait painters sailing to her island home.
The lighthouse keeper’s daughter’s tales of bravery even reached Queen Victoria. Sadly, Grace died three years later, aged 26, but her legacy remains today. Darling is buried with her parents in St Aidan’s churchyard in Bamburgh, where a cenotaph commemorates her life. There is also a museum located in Bamburgh dedicated to her achievements.
Grace Darling St Aidens Church