Remembering heroine Grace

Grace strokes an eider duck on Brownsman Island. Illustrated by Moira Pagan
Grace strokes an eider duck on Brownsman Island. Illustrated by Moira Pagan
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She was Victorian Britain’s greatest heroine and her story has captivated audiences for more than 170 years.

Now, a new book has been published telling the inspirational, but also moving and tragic, story of 19th century icon Grace Darling.

William helps the survivors while Grace keeps the coble off the rocks. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

William helps the survivors while Grace keeps the coble off the rocks. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

And this fascinating work has been written and illustrated by descendants of the Darling family.

The Life of Grace Darling (Illustrated) is aimed at older children and adults alike.

It brings to life the characters and events that were to turn Grace Darling’s world upside down, following her heroic rescue of survivors from the SS Forfarshire, which ran aground off the Northumberland coast in 1838.

The book has been written and produced by John Pagan and John Harper, who are co-founders of the website GraceDarling.co.uk It is beautifully illustrated by Moira Pagan, with 28 full-page original watercolours helping to tell the story.

William helps the survivors while Grace keeps the coble off the rocks. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

William helps the survivors while Grace keeps the coble off the rocks. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

Mr Pagan shares the family connection to Grace with sister Moira, whose paternal grandmother was a relative of Grace Darling.

And the trio are delighted with the book (priced £16.95), which has been lovingly created over several years.

Mr Pagan, who was fully aware of Grace Darling from early childhood due to his father’s fascination with the story, said: “This new publication challenges the misconception that her story was just about a sea rescue. It explores new areas of the Grace Darling story.

“She became one of the most famous women of the Victorian era. As the daughter of a lighthouse keeper living off the coast of Northumberland, she was elevated to celebrity status after her role in saving lives from the stricken vessel Forfarshire in 1838.

William and Grace fight the waves. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

William and Grace fight the waves. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

“Often portrayed as a fairy-style short story for children, the truth is very different.”

Indeed, Grace achieved worldwide fame for her act of outstanding courage, as she and her father William rowed out in a coble from Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands to save the lives of nine people on the rocks.

Overnight, she was declared a heroine. Awards and gifts were showered on her. But she found fame hard and desperately wished to turn her back on all the fuss and attention.

Her health began to decline and she died in 1842 – just six years after the rescue. The cause of her death was recorded as tuberculosis.

The Forfarshire wrecks on Harcar Rock. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

The Forfarshire wrecks on Harcar Rock. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

Mr Harper, who has been fascinated with the story for many years, said: “It has long been my ambition to bring to life this true, dramatic story of courage, fame and tragedy.

“This beautifully illustrated book tells the true story of the first media celebrity, looking at her childhood, the dramatic sea rescue, her rejection of fame, her decline in health and withdrawal from the world.

“Two centuries after the birth of this national icon, this is the first time that the ‘big picture’ of her life has been portrayed in such an immediate and accessible way.

“It has been a labour of love, driven by the desire to tell the whole story to a new and wider audience.”

The book (ISBN 978-194517631-9) is available from www.GraceDarling.co.uk or via Amazon. It is also hoped that it will be stocked locally.

The story hits the London newspapers. Grace is declared a national heroine. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

The story hits the London newspapers. Grace is declared a national heroine. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

Grace finds peace in her final days at Bamburgh. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

Grace finds peace in her final days at Bamburgh. Illustrated by Moira Pagan

The front cover of the book.

The front cover of the book.