The courage of Grace Darling

Grace Darling was born in November 1815. Within a few weeks she was taken to live on Brownsman Island, one of the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumbria, in a small cottage attached to the lighthouse her father ran. In 1826 she and her family moved to the newly built Longstone Lighthouse. Grace was the seventh of nine children, and the family lived an isolated life on the island. Grace was home educated by her father, William, with the rocks and shores as her playground.

In the early hours of 7 September 1838 Grace was looking out of an upstairs window and saw the wreck and survivors of the steamship Forfarshire on Big Harcar, a nearby low, rocky island. The Forfarshire, carrying 62 people, had foundered on the rocks, and broken in half; one of the halves had sunk during the night. Her father and Grace decided that the weather was too rough for the lifeboat from Seahouses to be launched so they took a 21ft four-man Northumberland coble rowing boat and rowed a mile through the stormy seas to where the wreck was.

Grace kept the boat steady in the water, while her father helped four men and the lone surviving woman into the boat. Her father and three of the rescued men then rowed the boat back to the lighthouse. Her father and the three of the rescued crew members rowed back and brought four more survivors to safety. Grace’s courage was instantly recognised, and she became the first woman to be given the RNLI Gallantry Medal. Tragically, Grace developed tuberculosis in 1842 and died in her father’s arms on 20 October.

Grace’s courage and determination to save strangers at risk to her own life remind us of the Lord Jesus Christ. A well-known hymn says, “I have a friend whose faithful love is more than all the world to me, 
‘tis higher than the heights above, 
and deeper than the soundless sea: 
So old, so new, so strong, so true; 
before the earth received its frame, 
he loved me – blessed be his name! He held the highest place above, adored by all the sons of flame, yet, such his self-denying love, he laid aside his crown and came to seek the lost, and, at the cost of heavenly rank and earthly fame, he sought me – blessed be his name! It was a lonely path he trod, from every human soul apart, known only to himself and God was all the grief that filled his heart. Yet from the track he turned not back till where I lay in want and shame he found me – blessed be his Name!”