Historic lifeboat at centre of celebrations

Grace Darling
Grace Darling
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Whitby’s historic lifeboat is set to take part in celebrations to mark the anniversary of one of the most daring rescues in British maritime history.

The 100-year-old William Riley will take part in a recreation of Grace Darling’s infamous 1838 rescue of nine people shipwrecked off the coast of Northumberland.

September 7 marks the 175th anniversary of the rescue and Virginia Mayes-Wright, RNLI Grace Darling museum manager said: “The RNLI charity wanted to commemorate the anniversary of the rescue, not only because Grace’s deed epitomises the bravery and selflessness of its volunteer lifeboat crews of today, but because Grace is an inspiration to all who learn about what she did.”

As part of a whole day of events, the William Riley will be used in a ‘Row to the Farnes’.

The vessel, which has been restored by the whitby Historic Lifeboats Trust, will set off at 11.30am. Having been alerted to the disaster by a cannon fired from Bamburgh Castle, seven fishermen from Seahouses also set off to help. Up to 12 people, including members of the RNLI Seahouses volunteer crew, will be in the William Riley on its day-long journey.

In 1838 22-year-old Grace and her father William set off in stormy seas to rescue the stricken survivors of the wrecked SS Forfarshire, which had hit a rock off the Northumberland Coast. Grace spotted survivors on the rocks while on watch at the lighthouse and, with her father, she rowed in an open rowing boat to rescue the survivors, fearing the local lifeboat would not reach the survivors in time.

The RNLI awarded Grace and her father the Silver Medal for Gallantry, making her the first woman in history to receive such an award.

Ian Clayton, RNLI Seahouses volunteer, said: “Grace Darling is a true inspiration to our volunteer crews and although there have been incredible advances in kit and training, sea and weather conditions remain as treacherous and unpredictable as ever.”

Sadly, Grace Darling died just three years after the rescue from tuberculosis.