Friday, January 20, 2012

Grace Darling



"The cries of the sufferers on the remaining part of the wreck
were heard during the night."  *

~ Grace Darling

Who is Grace Darling?

Grace Horsley Darling was born in 1816, in Farne Isles (England) to Christian parents. She was a legendary Victorian herione noted for saving the lives of a shipwrecked group with the aid of her beloved father on the stormy seas.  


Interesting facts about her life:
  • Her father was the steadfast lighthouse keeper of Longstone and they therefore lived a life of solitude on the island with the family life being the center of their world.
  • Grace was home educated on the island by her father with the the rocks and shores acting as her playground. She was the seventh of nine children.
  • She was an avid reader and when her brothers were shipped off the island to gain experience and find work, she remained with her parents heartily performing household duties including helping to maintain their self sufficient lifestyle.
  • On September 7th, the steamship, Forfarshire, struck a rock and broke in two. A few hours later, Grace (aged 22) and her father (aged 52) spotted the survivors on the reef and took the family row boat out in the stormy sea to rescue them from Harcar Rock.
  • Nine were saved that day due to their aid. Grace, a petite 5'3", apparently kept the boat at bay on the wavering waters while her father brought in the stranded. They saved four on her shift and she stayed ashore with that group while her father and another man that was shipwrecked went back for the rest.
  • She became an instant heroine for this deed. She was the first woman to be given the RNLI Gallantry Medal. People from all over were sending her gifts of a monetary nature but she did not touch an ounce of it in her lifetime. The money was later used to create the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. In essence, the rescues at sea continue on in her memory today.
  • She had many suitors after the famous incident but she probably saw through their intentions of fame and never accepted any proposals.
  • She was an instant success with the press and chocolates and soaps were named after her. Due to her humble nature though, she did not encourage this nor did she ever allow herself to become a public figure. The notoriety was not well received and she ended up remaining on the island with her father and mother for the duration of her life even though she had become the first female Victorian heroine. Some have called her a recluse by remaining in the lighthouse after all of the publicity. I call her a "quiet and gentle" woman (1 Peter 3:4).
  • She died at 26 years of age (just four years after the famous rescue) of tuberculosis as a single maiden who did a singular deed.



What was interesting to me about her story is that it took place in a deserted location. Grace Darling lived in an isolated world as a dedicated daughter and sister but when a situation presented itself, she acted accordingly. She did not seek fame and fortune but rather lived humbly in her home serving the Lord in the quiet ways described in 1 Thessalonians 4:11~

"And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing."

Then, a day came when she offered her life as assistance to others in the stormy seas…

Even those who are stranded on an island have the opportunity to serve God in great ways! Sometimes we as women may feel like we are stranded on one as well but you are doing great things in your isolated homes! Mothers are building leaders in the home and daughters are learning to be those future mothers. That is heroic in itself! You are raising the future heroes and heroines of the faith (Hebrews, Chapter 11)! So, let us not limit the ways that God can work in each and every one of us and use every opportunity to let our lights shine like those who manned that famous lighthouse.

Suggested Resources:

If you would like to read to your children about Grace Darling, James Baldwin has a chapter about her in his book titled, "Fifty Famous Stories Retold". You can find it online for free with this link.

(It is interesting to note that I prepared this prior to the sinking of the ship in Italy and we can see how much the heart of man is tried and tested in these scary sojourns at sea!)

* I have quoted this since this is what she was famous for supposedly saying but some have stated that these words have been turned to fantasy and it was not possible to hear the cries from her location. Her situation brought out a lot of sensational stories and I tried to write what was solid and true though many tales have been told.

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