|Rights||No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Article Title||Grace Darling|
GRACE DARLING. Who has not heard of Grace Darling, the heroine of the Longstone Lighthouse? whose name, associated with the wreck of the Forfarshire steamer, will long be remembered among the annals of those who, although holding humble stations in life, have yet exhibited traits of natural greatness which would grace the occupier of the loftiest position in society? There are probably few persons in this country who have not heard of her and of the act of daring courage in the cause of suffering humanity for which her name has become celebrated. The account of the transaction appeared generally in the newspapers at the time it occurred. As, however, a good and great act will not lose its luster from being oft-recited, and as a prominent object of the Life Boat Journal (from which we take the narrative) is to encourage and stir up others to the exhibition of such deeds, we hold up to emulation the intrepidity of one of that six whose virtues are commonly of a more retiring nature, and who are neither morally nor physically so constituted as to fit them for encountering such perils. Grace Darling was born in November, 1815, and was the daughter of William Darling, keeper of the light-house on the Longstone, one of the group of the Farne Islands, in which solitary abode she constantly resided with her parents. She is described as having been "remarkable for a retiring and somewhat reserved disposition-of a fair complexion and comely countenance-with nothing masculine in her appearance; but on the contrary, gentle in aspect, and with an expression of the greatest mildness and benevolence;" which latter qualities, we need scarcely remark, are not uncommonly found associated with gallant bearing and the most resolute courage. Previous to describing the distinguished act of Grace Darling in proceeding with her father to the rescue of the sufferers on the wreck of the Forfarshire, it will be desirable that we should explain the nature of the dangerous locality where it occurred. The Farne Islands lie off the northeastern coast of England. They are a group of barren and desolate rocks, inhabited principally by sea-fowl, and their sides are in many parts extremely precipitous. Through the channels between the smaller Farne Islands the sea rushes with great impetuosity, and doubtless many a shipwreck of which there is no record has occurred there in former times, when no beacon existed to guide the mariner in his path through the deep. Rather more than a century ago a Dutch 40 gun frigate, with all her crew, was lost among them; and numerous other wrecks are recorded to have happened between that time and the present. Living on this lone spot, in the midst of the ocean, with the horrors of the tempest familiarized to her mind, Grace Darling was shut out as it were from the active scenes of life, and was principally occupied in assisting her mother in the management of their little household, and it is worthy of remark-in order to the better appreciation of the magnanimity she exhibited on this occasion-that she was not habituated to the use of an oar, or the management of a boat, those offices having been performed by other members of the family. She had received a good education for her station in life, and had reached her twenty-second year when the incident occurred which has rendered her name so famous, and which we will now proceed to relate. On the evening of the 5th of September, 1838, the Forfarshire, a steamer of about 800 tons burden, John Humble, master, sailed from Hull for Dundee, having on board a valuable cargo, and, as nearly as could be ascertained, sixty-three persons-viz., the master and his wife, a crew of twenty men, and forty-one passengers. She was a new vessel, being only two years old, but her boilers were, no doubt, in a culpable state of disrepair. Previous to her leaving Hull a small leak had been discovered in them, an, for the moment, closed up; but when off Flamborough Head it broke out afresh to such an extent as to put out two of the fires. The boilers were, however, partially repaired, and the fires relighted; and in this inefficient state she proceeded on her voyage, passing "Fairway," between the Farne Islands and the mainland, at about 6 p. m. on the 6th. At about 8 p. m. she entered Borwick Bay, the sea running high, with the wind strong from the north. The leakage now increased to such a degree that the firemen could not keep the fires burning, and at about 10 p. m. she bore up for St. Abb's Head, the storm still raging with unabased fury. The engines soon after became useless and would not work, when the sails were hoisted fore and aft, and the vessel lacked, in order to keep her off the land. She, however, soon became unmanageable, and the tide setting strong to the south she was carried by it in that direction. It rained heavily during the whole time, and the fog was too dense to enable the the position of the vessel to be ascertained. At length breakers were discovered close to leeward, and the Farne lights became visible, leaving no doubt as to the imminent peril of all on board. It was in vain attempted to avert the catastrophe by running between the islands and the mainland; she would not answer her helm, and was impelled to and fro by a furious sea. Between three and four o'clock she struck with her bows foremost on the rock, which was there so precipitous that a person could scarce stand erect on it. A part of the crew now lowered one of the quarter-boats and left the ship, having one of the passengers with them, who had contrived to throw himself into the boat; but two others in making the same attempt perished. The scene which now presented itself was of a most heartrending description. Several women were uttering cries of anguish and despair, and amidst them stood the bewildered master, whose wife, clinging to him, frantically besought the protection which he was unable to afford. Very soon after the first shock a heavy wave struck the vessel on the quarter, and, raising her off the rock, allowed her immediately after to fall violently upon it, when, a sharp ledge striking her about amidships, she was fairly broken into two pieces, and the afterpart, containing the cabin and many passengers, was instantly carried off by a rapid current through the ?? while the fore part remained on the rock. A portion of the passengers and crew had previously betaken themselves to the foremost part of the vessel, considering it to be the safest place. In this dreadful situation, exposed amidst darkness to the buffeting of the waves, and fearful lest each rising surge should sweep away into the deep the fragment of the wreck on which they stood, they waited in anxious expectancy the breaking of the day. In the forecabin, also exposed to the intrusion of the sea, was a woman, the wife of a weaver, with her two children, who, when relief at last came, was found yet alive, but her two children lay stiffened corpses in her arms. Such was their seemingly hopeless position when, soon after the day broke, they were descried from the Longstone by the Darlings, at nearly a mile's distance. A mist hovered over the island, and though the wind had somewhat abated its violence, the sea was still raging fearfully, making any approach to the rugged pinnacles and sunken rocks which surround these islands a work of extreme peril. Indeed, even at a later period of the day, a reward of [pound sign] 5, offered by the steward of Bamborough Castle, could scarcely induce a party of fishermen to venture off from the mainland. To have braved the dangers of that terrible passage would have done the highest honor even to the well tried nerves of the stoutest of the male sex. But what shall be said of the errand of mercy being undertaken and accomplished mainly through the strength of a female heart and arm? Through the dim mist, with the aid of a glass, the figures of the sufferers were seen clinging to the wreck. But who could dare to tempt the raging abyss that intervened in the hope of succoring them? Mr. Darling, it is said, shrank from the attempt-not so his daughter. At her solicitation the boat was launched, with the assistance of her mother-the father and daughter entering it, and each taking an oar. In estimating the danger which the heroic adventuress encountered, there is one circumstance which ought not to be forgotten. Had it not been ebb tide, the boat could not have passed between the islands; and they knew that the tide would be flowing on their return, when their united strength would be utterly insufficient to row the boat back to the light house island; so that, had they not got the assistance of the survivors on their return, they themselves would have been compelled to remain on the rock, beside the wreck, until the tide again ebbed. It could then only be by the exertion of great muscular power, as well as of determined courage, that they could hope to reach the wreck; and when there the danger would be much increased from the liability the would run of being dashed to pieces on those rugged rocks. It must have seemed to them a forlorn hope, but their courage rose with the emergency-God's blessing accompanied them-and their efforts were crowned with success. The whole of the nine survivors were taken into their little bark, and conveyed in safety to the light-house. Here, owing to the violent seas which continued to prevail, they were compelled to remain two days, during which time they received every kindness and comfort that the household could afford, and of which they were in so much need. The party who had left in the ship's boat, also nine in number, were picked up the next morning, by a Montrose sloop, and conveyed to Shield. The subsequent events of Grace Darling's life are soon told. The deed she had done may be said to have wafted her name all over Europe. That lonely light house became speedily the center of attraction to curious and sympathizing thousands, including many of the wealthy and the great, who, in numerous instances, testified by substantial tokens the feelings with which they regarded the young heroine. Among the number were the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, who invited her father and herself to Alewick Castle, and presented her with a gold watch. Grace and her father received the silver medal of the National Lifeboat (then Shipwreck) Institution, and numerous testimonials from other public bodies and admiring strangers. A public subscription was also raised, with a view to reward her for her bravery and humanity, which is said to have amounted to about $1,500. To such an extent, indeed, did the popular enthusiasm reach that portraits of her were eagerly sought for, and she was even offered large sums by the proprietors of one or more of the metropolitan theaters on the condition that she should merely sit in a boat for a brief space during the performance of a piece whose chief attraction she was to be. All such offers, however, were promptly and steadily refused, and it is gratifying to know that amidst all this tumult of applause Grace Darling never for a moment forgot the modest dignity of conduct which became her sex and station. The flattering testimonials of all kinds which were showered on her seemed to produce in her mind no other feelings than those of wonder and grateful pleasure. She continued to reside at the Longstone Light-house with her father and mother, finding, in her limited sphere of domestic duty, on that sea-girt islet, a more honorable and more rational enjoyment than the crowded haunts of the mainland would have afforded her; and thus giving, by her conduct, the best proof that the liberality of the public had not been unworthy bestowed. Grace Darling did not live long in the enjoyment of the honors that had been showered on her. She died of consumption on the 25th of October, 1842, at the age of twenty-seven years, and four years after the occurrence which has made her name famous for all time.-Sunday at Home.