On Thursday Kevin was invited to Longstone Lighthouse on The Farne Islands to help officially launch Northumberland Day 2018. Check out The Chronicle newspaper article for a short video.
The day included a boat trip with George Shiel, to the lighthouse that was home to the Darling family in the early 1800’s, with it’s most famous resident being Grace Darling from the famed rescue of the Forfarshire.
Grace was the daughter of a lighthouse keeper called William Darling. William’s family lived with him at Longstone Lighthouse. One night there was a fierce storm, the winds were raging and the waves were crashing all around. When Grace woke early the next morning, 7th September 1838, she spotted the SS Forfarshire off Big Harcar Rock. In the absence of Mr Darling’s sons, who were all on the mainland, Grace offered to help him rescue the survivors they could see clinging to the rock.
The pair rowed out into the wild sea, in a little boat called, a coble. When they reached the rock, Mr Darling leapt from the boat to assess the survivors, because they could only take a few people back to the lighthouse at a time. Grace handled the coble while William was on the rock.
Now, it’s hard to row a boat anyway in calm weather, let alone in a storm with waves crashing all around you. Only someone with a lot of strength, skill and practice can do something like that. And that’s exactly what Grace did. She kept the boat steady and stopped it from getting damaged against the rock, until the first group of survivors were in.
Then her father and the sailors rowed them back to the safety of the lighthouse. Grace and her mother tended to the first group of survivors while Mr Darling and a few of the stronger sailors rowed back to Big Harcar rock to get the people they’d had to leave behind.
There were around 60 people on the Forfarshire when she sank. Grace and her father saved 9.
She was the first woman ever to be given an RNLI* Medal for Gallantry. She was 22 years old. The nation fell in love with her for the courage she had shown; although Grace didn’t much care for the attention she received and didn’t like being a celebrity. She died 4 years later of tuberculosis.
The tale of Grace Darling is one spoon fed to all North East ‘bairns’ (children) as soon as they are old enough to sit on their grandparents knee for a story.
Kevin was privileged to visit the inner workings of the lighthouse courtesy of Golden Gate Boat Trips, including the bedroom from which Grace spotted the survivors of the Forfarshire wreak 180 years ago.
Grace has often been held up as an inspiration and a testament to the true Northumbrian spirit.
It is in this spirit that we should celebrate everything Northumbrian over the next couple of weeks, especially on Sunday 28th May 2018, the second official Northumberland Day!
The tale of Grace Darling
Check out the Northumberland Day website for more details and events!
*RNLI – Royal National Lifeboat Institution. You can visit the Grace Darling Museum at Bamburgh to see exhibits of her personal possessions, letters, and the famous coble that she rowed. It is a lovely little museum. There is also a trail around the village of Bamburgh to find the house where she was born, the house she died in, and her grave.