Famous Brit of the Week
Today, Miss Atkinson's latest 'Famous Brit' assembly focused on Grace Darling. On 7th September 1838, the paddle steamer SS Forfarshire was travelling from Hull to Dundee on a rough and stormy night. The Forfarshire was having difficulties with its boilers when disaster struck off the coast of the Farne Islands, Northumberland.
Nearly all 60 passengers died as the ship struck the rocks, all apart from four passengers and five crew members who clung to the nearby rocks. Nine crew members and one passenger escaped in the lifeboat.
As morning dawned, the survivors were still clinging to the rocks. Local lighthouse keeper, William Darling, and his daughter, Grace, decided to row out to the survivors to rescue them.
William climbed onto the rocks to examine the injuries of the survivors, and tend to their needs, while Grace stayed in control of the boat, as it was tossed about in the heavy seas.
One by one, the survivors were helped onto the boat, until all of them were safely on board.
Grace and her father took the survivors back to the Longstone lighthouse in the Farne Islands, where they tended to their wounds and cared for them for three days, until the storm finally passed.
Grace became a heroine, with tales of her bravery even reaching Queen Victoria.
As news of her role in the rescue reached the public, her combination of bravery and simple virtue set her out as a national heroine. Grace and her father were awarded the Silver Medal for bravery by the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, later named the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Subscriptions and donations totaling over £700 were raised for her, including £50 from Queen Victoria; more than a dozen portrait painters sailed to her island home to capture her likeness, and hundreds of gifts, letters, and even marriage proposals were delivered to her.
Her unexpected wealth and fame were such that the Duke of Northumberland took on a role as her self-appointed guardian and founder of a trust, established to look after the donations offered to her. His personal gifts to her and her family included a timepiece and a silver teapot.
Sadly, Grace died three years later aged only 26 but is still remembered today.