WILLIAM DARLING [father of GD]
Born Belford, 7 February 1786
Died Bamburgh, 28 May 1865 age 79
William, Grace Darling's father, spent his early years in Belford until the family moved to Brownsman Island in 1795. In his teens he worked as a labourer in Bamburgh but as the youngest son he was destined to help his father and he became assistant lighthouse keeper at Brownsman, employed by Trinity House.
On 1 July 1805 he married Thomasin Horsley in Bamburgh. He was 19; she was 31. They had nine children, including two sets of twins.
Upon Robert Darling’s death in 1815 William succeeded him as lighthouse keeper on a salary of £70 a year. Just two months later his seventh child, Grace, came into the world. The family moved to the new Longstone Lighthouse in 1826. At the time of the Forfarshire rescue William was 52 years old. His ‘Journal’ reveals that he made many rescues at sea. A keen naturalist, William kept records of bird counts and corresponded with ornithologists and with museums.
He continued as lighthouse keeper until 1860 when he retired and moved to Bamburgh, living in a fine house, ‘The Wyndings’. He is buried in the Darling family grave in Bamburgh churchyard.
THOMASIN DARLING [mother of GD]
Born Thomasin Horsley in Bamburgh, 27 February 1774
Died Bamburgh, 16 October 1848, age 74
Thomasin, Grace’s mother, was the eldest child of Job and Grace Horsley of Bamburgh. She was one of twins: her sister, to be called Grace, died at birth. In 1805 at the age of 31 she married the 19 year old William Darling. Thomasin had three younger, eligible sisters yet William chose her. This unlikely union created a happy marriage of over forty years and produced nine children, including two sets of twins. Grace was the seventh child and their youngest daughter.
Thomasin moved with her husband to Brownsman Island and then to Longstone and had a busy domestic life. It is said she hardly ever left the islands. At the time of the Forfarshire rescue Thomasin was 64. She helped launch the coble for William and Grace and was left on her own in the lighthouse. Later that day she had to accommodate and attend to survivors and lifeboat men, sixteen in all.
In the accounts of the Darlings story little is said about Thomasin other than she spent most of her time at the spinning wheel but she was at the centre of a loving family at all times, supporting William’s work as lighthouse keeper all her life.
She died at Longstone in 1848, six years after Grace, and is buried in the family grave at Bamburgh. William remained at Longstone until his retirement twelve years later.
WILLIAM DARLING [eldest brother of GD]
Born Bamburgh, 6 April 1806
Died Longstone Light, 5 November 1869, age 63
William Snr was living in Bamburgh and classed as a ‘labourer’ when his first child was born. He was named William after his father so he became known as ‘Laddie’ because of it. They soon moved to Brownsman Island, as William became assistant lighthouse keeper. As a child William Jnr was brought up on the island and would have helped his father. At sixteen he left Brownsman to become an apprentice joiner in Alnwick. William married Ann Cobb in Belford in 1837. They had six children. He still made visits back home - now at Longstone. On a family visit at Christmas 1834 he was involved in a sea rescue when, with his father and two of his brothers, they rescued one survivor of a wreck off Knavestone Rock at great danger to themselves.
In 1839 the Duke of Northumberland ordered the construction of a lighthouse on Coquet Island. The Duke had taken an active interest in the Darlings affairs since the Forfarshire rescue and recommended their eldest son William as the first lighthouse keeper at Coquet Island. William took up the post, moving to the island with his wife. Grace went to stay with them briefly, a few months before she died.
Between 1839 and 1854 William and Ann had six children, all presumably brought up on Coquet Island.
THOMASIN DARLING [sister of GD] }
Born 7 August 1808; died 17 August 1886, age 78 } Twin sisters
MARY ANN DARLING [sister of GD] }
Born 7 August 1808; died 31 August 1843, age 35
THOMASIN was named after her mother, so was presumably the first twin to be born. She became known as ‘Sister’ to the family. Thomasin was born with a cleft lip of which she was self-conscious. From an early age she declared that she would never attract a man nor marry because of it, and she never did. When quite young she set herself up as a dressmaker, opening a business in Bamburgh.
Although she was seven years older than Grace, Thomasin was Grace’s favourite sister. The pair became very close and wrote to each other all the time. Much of Grace’s last days were spent in her sister’s company. After father William died in 1865, Thomasin turned his house into a boarding house, taking in visitors. Even forty years after the event, exaggeration about details of the rescue continued, causing Thomasin in her old age to write her own account: ‘Grace Darling, Her True Story’.
MARY ANN, Thomasin’s twin sister, decided to live in Bamburgh when the family moved to Longstone and on 18 November 1832 she married George Dixon Carr. They were both 24 but over the next ten years family tragedies befell them. Five children were born but only the fifth survived infancy. George and Mary Ann themselves were both to die young; George died at the age of 32 in 1840 before the birth of his daughter, Georgiann.
The widowed and pregnant Mary Ann moved back to live in the lighthouse but she died just three years later. Her orphaned daughter, Georgiann, at three years old was the only one of this family to survive - she was to marry her cousin, William Dixon.
JOB HORSLEY DARLING [brother of GD]
Born Bamburgh, 30 December 1810
Died Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 6 December 1830, age 19
Job was the second son and five years older than Grace. He was christened Job Horsley after his old grandfather, then in his late seventies. Brought up on Brownsman Island he would have been 15 when the Darlings moved to Longstone, prompting him to leave the Farnes and make his way in the world. He moved to Newcastle and was apprenticed there as a joiner, like his brother William was in Alnwick. A letter to his father shows that his employer was very satisfied with him. In December 1830 he was planning to come home for Christmas and spend his 20th birthday there when he was suddenly taken ill and tragically died of a fever. He is buried in the Darling family grave at Bamburgh.
ELIZABETH GRACE DARLING [sister of GD]
Born Bamburgh, 15 August 1812
Died 31 December 1844, age 32
Elizabeth was the fifth child and third daughter of William and Thomasin. The family referred to her as ‘Betsy’. At Longstone she shared her room with her young sister, Grace. Betsy became a maidservant and married John Maule, a draper in North Sunderland. They had two children: James Walter, born in 1837 and Thomasin, born in 1839.
When the many portrait painters came to paint Grace it is believed that, for a prank, Betsy sat for some of them, pretending to be Grace. Afterwards the sisters’ thought this was great fun.
Sadly, Betsy died two years after Grace, at the age of 32.
ROBERT DARLING [brother of GD]
Born Brownsman Light, 29 March 1814
Died Alnwick, 10 August 1877, age 63
Robert was the third son of the Darlings. Unusually for a Darling child he was sent to school at Bamburgh Castle, possibly as a boarder. In June 1831 he became apprenticed to a stonemason in Belford and made this his trade. Robert was a strong swimmer; when he was 20 he helped in a dramatic sea rescue whilst back home one Christmas. He married Elizabeth Pye from Gateshead in 1838 and established himself in Newcastle. Robert and Elizabeth had one daughter, Elizabeth Grace.
GEORGE ALEXANDER DARLING [brother of GD] }
Born 14 August 1819; died 20 April 1903, age 83 } Twin brothers
WILLIAM BROOKS DARLING [brother of GD] }
Born 14 August 1819; died 24 Dec 1870, age 51
A month before his 15th birthday George moved to Newcastle to become apprenticed as a ship’s carpenter. Along with his twin brother and his father he famously rowed all the way from the Farnes to Newcastle. In 1840 George married Jane Martha Hall from Newcastle. They had thirteen children of which ten were girls but not all survived to adulthood.
George outlived his siblings by many years. After his sister Thomasin’s day he became the surviving spokesman for the family legend. He owned the original coble used in the rescue; it is thanks to him it has survived.
William Brooks, George Alexander’s twin brother, was 19 years old and ashore at Seahouses on the night of the Forfarshire rescue. He led the lifeboat men five miles out into the storm to look for survivors. They found none but soon discovered that William's father and Grace had already rescued them.
William Brooks was appointed assistant lighthouse keeper at Longstone. He married Jane Downey in October 1840 and moved to Longstone, having a new house built there for his expanding family. William and Jane had nine children, seven boys and two girls, but few survived to adulthood; several died in their early teens.
After his father retired William Brooks became official lighthouse keeper at Longstone.