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April / May 2023            Bamburgh                  Grace Darling

Gale-force winds battered the stricken SS Forfarshire as it desperately tried to stay afloat.

A boiler failure forced its captain to switch off the engines, leaving its 68 crew with the frightening task of surviving at the mercy of the North Sea.

Its captain launched a makeshift sail and attempted to navigate to the shelter of Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland, in the dead of night.

But disaster struck, when he slammed into rocks a mile from Longstone Lighthouse, breaking the vessel in two. As the front half of the ship became stuck on the rock, the back was swept away by the sea and sunk, tragically taking 48 passengers with it.

From her bedroom window inside the lighthouse at 4.45am, an unassuming 22-year-old by the name of Grace Darling saw the wreckage and took action.

What would follow, on that fateful night of September 7, 1838, would become known as one of the greatest acts of heroism the country has ever seen.

With first light revealing the survivors on the rock, Grace alerted her father William of the impending danger.

The pair, risking their lives, used nothing but a 21ft rowing boat to row out for almost a mile and reach them, battling ferocious waves and winds as they did so.

Upon reaching Big Harcar island, William jumped off to examine the injuries of the survivors while Grace stayed in control of the boat – 

continuously rowing to avoid it smashing into the reef.

Five of the survivors, four men and a woman, were loaded onto the boat and safely returned to shore with the help of Grace.

She then remained at the lighthouse tending to the injured as her father and three rescued crew members rowed out to recover four more survivors.

News of Grace’s role in the rescue swept across the country and the world, even reaching the ears of then-monarch Queen Victoria. Along with her father, Grace was awarded the Silver Medal for Bravery by the RNLI and became an icon of the organisation thanks to focusing public attention on saving lives at sea.

She also received over £700 in donations (about £67,000 today), including £50 from the queen herself.

The legend of Grace Darling still continues to this day. A museum dedicated to her life, the RNLI Grace Darling Museum, was built in her home town of Bamburgh 100 years after the rescue in 1938 and is still open to this day.

Visitors can be transported back to that infamous night of 1838 through the use of audio-visual tools and see a replica of the boat Grace used to rescue the survivors with her father.

And, with the RNLI having only last month (March 4th) celebrating its 200th anniversary, there is no better time to learn about one of Britain’s greatest heroines.

To find out more, you can email the museum directly at, call on 01668 214910 or visit the RNLI website,

Contact us: Swaines Industrial Estate, Ashingdon Rd, Rochford SS4 1RG – 0330 229 2121 –