Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Darling, Grace Horsley

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 14
Darling, Grace Horsley by no contributor recorded

DARLING, GRACE HORSLEY (1815–1842), heroine, born at Bamborough, Northumberland, 24 Nov. 1815, was the daughter, and seventh of nine children, of William Darling, by his wife Thomasin (Horsley). William Darling in 1815 succeeded his father as keeper of a lighthouse on the Farne Islands. He was a man of strong religious principles, who brought up his children carefully, objecting to light literature, and regarding cards as the devil's books, but who had tastes for music and natural history. On 7 Sept. 1838 the Forfarshire steamboat was wrecked upon one of the rocks, and most of the persons on board were lost. Darling, who was alone with his wife and daughter, saw that a few of them had found refuge on a rock. He launched a coble and rowed to the place with the help of his daughter, knowing that it would be impossible to return without the help of some of the endangered persons. Four men and a woman were successfully taken off by Darling and his daughter and brought to the lighthouse. Darling then returned with two of the rescued men and brought off four men who had been left.

The reports of this gallant exploit produced an outburst of enthusiasm. The Humane Society voted gold medals to Darling and his daughter. The treasury gave 50l. to Grace. A sum of 750l., produced by subscription, was invested for the benefit of Grace, and 270l. for the benefit of her father. Applications for locks of hair came in till Grace was in danger of baldness. The proprietor of Batty's circus tried to engage her, and advertised her appearance on the stage. Darling wrote to the papers complaining that he and his daughter had had to sit for their portrait seven times in twelve days.

Grace was happily not spoilt by her popularity. She received much good advice from the Duke of Northumberland, who was one of her trustees, and remained a hardworking, sensible girl. She left her island occasionally, but came back with such reports of the outer world as deterred her from marriage. She was always rather delicate, and beneath the average in height. She suddenly showed symptoms of consumption, and died 20 Oct. 1842. She was buried at Bamborough. Her mother died in 1848; and her father, who had been allowed to retire on full pay in 1860, died 28 May 1865.

[The most authentic account is in ‘Grace Darling, her true story, from unpublished papers in possession of the family’ (1880); William Darling's Journal from 1795 to 1860 has been recently published (1887); there are also unsatisfactory lives by Thomas Arthur (Religious Book Society) and Eva Hope (Grace Darling, the heroine of the Farne Islands; her life and its lessons).]