Longstone Lighthouse visitor reveals she is Darling descendant

Elizabeth Harrison and George Shiel.
Elizabeth Harrison and George Shiel.

A descendant of Grace Darling’s father made a poignant visit to the family’s Longstone Lighthouse.

Grace became a Northumberland and national heroine after she helped rescue survivors from the shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838.

The paddlesteamer had run aground on the Farne Islands and Grace and her father William decided to row across from the lighthouse to help save people’s lives.

Grace kept the coble steady in the water while her father helped men and a woman into the boat.

People can now tour the lighthouse and last Sunday one of the visitors dropped a bombshell – that she was a descendant of William Darling.

Elizabeth Harrison was on holiday and was a bit unhappy about climbing the lighthouse steps, but was determined to have her photograph taken in what was once Grace Darling’s bedroom.

She said: “It was an amazing experience and I love Northumberland.”

George Shiel, who is the Trinity House lighthouse keeper at the Farne Islands, and also owns the The Golden Gate – the only boat to land on Longstone and tour the lighthouse – admitted he was shocked when he heard that Mrs Harrison was a descendant of William.

He said: “We were at the top of the lighthouse and we were getting fabulous views when this lady casually told us of her connection.

“We do get quite a few people who are researching their connection to the Darling family.

“The family originally came from Duns and Robert Darling (Grace’s paternal grandfather) was lightkeeper from 1795 and before that, he was a cooper in Belford.”

Grace died of tuberculosis in October 1842, aged 26. She is buried with her father and mother in St Aidan’s churchyard, Bamburgh, where there is also a cenotaph to commemorate her life. The village also has a museum dedicated to Grace Darling.