Whitby took centre stage at the 175th anniversary celebrations of one of the most famous rescues in British maritime history.
Whitby RNLI’s Jamie White (32) is a direct descendant of Grace Darling, the young woman who, along with her father, took part in the daring rescue of the crew of a sinking vessel one stormy night in 1838.
Whitby Lifeboat Trust’s restored vessel, the William Riley, also took part in anniversary events last weekend, recreating the launch of the North Sunderland - now Seahouses - lifeboat, which responded to the disaster.
Jamie was taught his ancestry by his grandmother, Rita White, who was originally from Seahouses and retained close links to the RNLI through fund-raising work she did with the lifeboat museum.
He said: “I feel very proud. To be part of a very historic rescue and me being part of the RNLI now, I’m very overwhelmed and proud of my heritage. It’s well and truly in the blood.”
In addition to Grace, Jamie also discovered that three of the crew on board the North Sunderland lifeboat were also distant relations.
He was invited on to the William Riley as the boat attempted to recreate the journey of the North Sunderland lifeboat crew from Seahouses to Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands.
Unfortunately, poor weather prevented the historic lifeboat from completing the journey, but Jamie said this gave everyone an extra appreciation of Grace’s efforts.
“You have got to come around Longstone,” said Jamie. “But there’s a lot of tide and wind running through there. So to row a little rowing boat through that. She was only 5ft 2 and they never had lifeboats.
“The bravery is unbelievable. The adrenaline that must have been running through their body, just to get to these people, I don’t know how they survived it.”
In fact, he can trace his family’s lifeboat history back to the early 1800s, to a Seahouses coxswain named William Robson.
Grace was born in Bamburgh and a museum in her honour is now located in the town. Jamie took the opportunity to visit the museum and said: “I was stood with my two children and our lass and as a grown man I had a lump in my throat and it put a tear in my eye. You are looking at something your ancestor did in a very famous rescue, knowing that as a lifeboatman you are doing the same thing.”