Grace Darling

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



Grace was born in 1815 at Bamburgh in Northumberland and spent her youth in two lighthouses, (Brownsman and Longstone), 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 Lighthouse on the Farne Islands, spotted the wreck and survivors of the ship, SS Forfarshire on Big Harcar, 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 lifeboat to put out from Seahouses (then North Sunderland), so they took a rowing boat (a 21 ft, 4-man Northumberland coble) 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 vicar. 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 Montrose sloop and brought into South Shields that same night[1].

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