I suspect that Grace Darling appealed as a girlhood heroine because of a family affinity with lighthouses and a love of swimming in the sea. My mother owned a cliff-top promontory in Scotland’s far north, where there was a manned lighthouse and foghorn complex to guide shipping in the Pentland Firth. We made an annual summer holiday pilgrimage to climb the lighthouse tower, admire the polished magnifying lenses and peer over the cliff edge at the shattered remains below of a foghorn, victim of the persistent sea eroding the cliffs.
Here it was easy to imagine plucky Grace rowing out in the dark and wild seas to rescue the distraught passengers of the Forfarshire, run aground on the rocks near the Longstone Lighthouse, kept by her father on England’s Farne islands. Just increase the magnitude of wind, add waves and rocks, paint in the dark grey storm and turn up the soundtrack of crashing breakers, cracking metal, splintering timber, screeching seabirds and the plaintive cries of frightened survivors of the wreck. Grace and her father rescued nine in their rowboat, Grace skilfully negotiating the rocks and balancing the boat in the roughest seas while her father helped the passengers aboard.
It still sends shivers down my spine. Grace provided the spur to learn to swim properly, and she may also have been responsible for my late-blooming sporting career as a rower during graduate school.
For more information, check out her biography.
Visit us tomorrow to learn about a heroine who starred in funny, dramatic and controversial films.