32 - Grace Darling

Words by Traditional
Tune by Traditional

A ballad telling the true story of Grace Darling, the daughter of William Darling, keeper of the Longstone Lighthouse in the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland. On 7 September 1838, the paddle steamer "Forfarshire" wrecked on one of the islands in a gale. William and Grace launched their rowing boat and made it out to a rock a mile out, where they found 9 people (8 men, 1 woman). Unable to rescue them all in the mountainous seas, they took the woman and four men and rowed back to the lighthouse. William and two of the men returned and rescued the remainder. All were saved. Grace and William Darling were awarded the Royale Humane Society gold medal.

We've removed the verse that implied that William wimps out of the rescue and Grace rows out alone, as it seems a bit unfair! The song has also apparently been collected in Ireland where Grace had "an Irish heart".

'Twas on the Longstone Lighthouse there dwelt an English maid,
Pure as the air around her, of danger ne’er afraid.
One morning just at daybreak a storm-tossed wreck she spied.
Although to try seemed madness,“I’ll save the crew,” she cried.

And she pulled away o’er the rolling seas, over the waters blue.
“Help, help”: she could hear the cry of the shipwrecked crew;
But Grace had an English heart: the raging storm she braved;
She pulled away 'mid the dashing spray, and the crew she saved.

They to the rocks were clinging, a crew of nine, all told;
Between them and the lighthouse the seas like mountains rolled.
Said Grace: “Come help me, father. We’ll launch the boat,” said she.
“Tis madness,” said her father, “to face that raging sea.”

They rode the angry billows and reached the rock at length;
They saved the shipwrecked sailors: in heaven alone their strength.
Go tell the wide world over what English pluck can do,
And sing of brave Grace Darling who nobly saved the crew.