Grace Horsley Darling was born on 24 November 1815 in her grandfather’s cottage in Bamburgh, Northumberland. She was the seventh of the nine children of William and Thomasin Darling. Horsley was her grandfather’s surname.
Grace's father was the lighthouse keeper at Brownsman Island and Grace went there to live when she was three weeks old. The family had a small cottage attached to the island’s lighthouse and were the only people who lived on the island. Unfortunately, the lighthouse at Brownsman Island was not in a good position for guiding ships past the dangerous rocks. So a new lighthouse was built at Longstone the furthest out of the Farne Islands. In 1826, when Grace was 10 years old, the Darling family moved to the new lighthouse.
On the 5th September 1838 the steamship, Forfarshire, set off from Hull to Dundee. The following day, the ship’s boiler began to leak and on the morning of the 7th September the engine stopped. The Forfarshire began to drift. Then, at about 4 am, there was a great crash as the steamship hit Big Harcar rock. Within 15 minutes the ship had broken in two, giving no time to call the passengers from their cabins. The back end of the ship was swept away and sank with more than 48 people on-board. Only Grace and her parents were in the lighthouse which was being battered by the storm.
As soon as it was light enough, Grace and her father set off to rescue the survivors. William leapt from the boat to help people, leaving Grace to handle it on her own and keep it from being smashed on the rocks. On the rocks, William found eight men, including one who was badly injured. There was also a woman holding two children, both of whom had died. William and three of the men rowed the boat , taking Grace, the injured man and the woman back to the lighthouse. Grace stayed there, looking after the survivors with her mother. Her father and two of the Forfarshire crew returned for the other four men.
Grace became a heroine. Everyone wanted to know about her, but Grace did not enjoy the attention. In April 1842, only 4 years after the rescue, Grace became ill with tuberculosis and died on October 20th the same year.
This year is the 200th anniversary of her birth. The RNLI Grace Darling Museum at Bamburgh is preparing for a busy two weeks, including a celebration of the Victorian heroine's 200th birthday, before closing for essential maintenance during December and January.
For more information, please go to: http://www.gracedarling.co.uk/index.html