New book explores how fame affected Grace Darling

Following some extensive research, an author has written a dramatised account of heroine Grace Darling’s whole life story.

By Andrew Coulson
Friday, 28th January 2022, 3:25 pm
An oil on canvas portrait of Grace Darling by Thomas Brooks.

Her historic rescue from a shipwreck off the Northumberland coast at the age of 22 is well known.

But Grace by Mark Batey explores what happened before and afterwards, including her struggles with instant and unexpected fame.

In September 1838, she and her father William rowed out in a coble from Longstone Lighthouse to save the lives of nine people on the rocks – survivors of the shipwrecked Forfarshire.

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Author Mark Batey, who splits his time between Northumberland and London.

The book covers her life from her young childhood living on Brownsman Island, one of the Farne Islands, to being awarded medals for bravery following the rescue and showered with gifts and money, her struggles with her mental health in the face of unwanted fame and finally her supportive relationship with the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland who looked after her from their seat of Alnwick Castle.

In 1842, Grace became ill with tuberculosis. On 20 October that year, she died at the age of 26.

Mark said that it was at the first of two inquests relating to the people on the Forfarshire who had died where the legend of Grace Darling was born.

He added: “Journalists latched on to the daring feat of the young woman ‘with the wind-blown hair’ who had risked her life to save others. While shipwrecks were not uncommon, the aptly-named Grace Darling made this rescue extra special.

“The role of her father, who had rowed alongside her, was conveniently downplayed.

“Grace’s own view, that the Darlings had merely done their duty, was disregarded. But raised in the seclusion of the Farnes, she had no desire for fame or adulation.

“Today, when elite athletes are applauded for stepping back for their well-being and professional advice is offered to participants in reality TV shows, more attention would surely be paid to the effects of celebrity on Grace’s mental health.

“At society dinners, toasts were raised and donations poured in. So did requests for souvenirs, locks of hair and personal appearances.”

Grace is available to buy online from retailers including Amazon and can be ordered from all good book stores.