I didn’t know that much about Grace Darling’s story, apart from the basics, before visiting Bamburgh. It’s an interesting and sad one. Her life was quite solitary in that she didn’t go to school, but learned a wide variety of knowledge from her father and they were very close. She was the youngest child of the family and as such was expected to care for her parents as they aged, which she was quite happy to do. Marriage and a family of her own didn’t seem to interest her.
Grace was born in Bamburgh, Northumberland in November 1815. Her father was a lighthouse keeper on the Farne Islands and Grace spent a good part of her youth in the lighthouses with her father, learning about the factors affecting the sea and the climate. In 1838 the paddle steamship SS Forfarshire, sailing from Hull to Dundee, ran aground on rocks off the outer islands. Grace was watching the storm from her window in Longstone lighthouse and saw the helpless ship wrecked on the rocks. She and her father watched for any signs of survivors but saw none. Grace carried on watching until daylight, which was when she saw movement on the rocks.
During the rescue that followed, which was at Grace’s insistence, she and her father saved the lives of eighteen people. Grace became a national heroine but hated the attention, the lack of privacy and the pressure it brought. Her health began to deteriorate and she died of tuberculosis in October 1842. She was 26.
Longstone Lighthouse (sourced from Pixabay)