Anyone who thinks they are related to Grace Darling, the 19th century sea-rescue heroine, is invited to start tracing their family history at a free one-to-one family history surgery session at Woodhorn Museum in Northumberland over Heritage Open Days weekend, September 8 and 9, 2012.
Grace Darling and her lighthouse keeper father lived on Longstone Island off the Northumberland coast at Bamburgh when, in a storm on September 7, 1838, the SS Forfarshire struck the notorious Harcar rocks, a part of the Farne Islands. Of the 63 people on board, nine managed to escape in the lifeboat while Grace and her father selflessly manned a coble to heroically rescue nine people stranded on the rocks.
Queen Victoria sent £50 for Grace which was administrated by the Duke of Northumberland. Three bravery medals were bestowed on her by three separate Humane Societies and the RNLI. After Queen Victoria, Grace became the most well-know woman in 19th century Britain. Grace tragically died in 1842 aged only 26, four years after her heroic deed.
Woodhorn as home to the Northumberland Archives, is the place to visit for anyone investigating their family history. With all kinds of records relating to the history of the county and its people going back 800 years, it contains a wealth of information. You can look at everything from church and school records, trade directories, business records and more as well as being able to access online resources too.
The surgery sessions are being held in conjunction with the play Amazing Grace, written by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood. The play tells the story of Grace Darling and will tour north east venues throughout October and November. There will also be an opportunity to meet the playwrights themselves at Woodhorn on Sunday 9th September as part of this special weekend. Ed & Trevor will be at the museum from 2pm – 3pm to hear family stories and to chat about the inspiration for Amazing Grace.
Woodhorn Exhibition and Events Officer Liz Ritson explained: “Amazing Grace celebrates the achievement of Grace Darling and many people claim to be related to her. She was one of nine siblings most of whom went on to have large families themselves, so it will be interesting for any would-be descendants to visit Woodhorn and begin to discover their family tree. We are confident the open day will produce lots of surprises.”
Woodhorn is also currently running a competition for a song about Grace, and any would-be composers have until 14 September to submit their entries. Full details are on the Woodhorn website www.experiencewoodhorn.com
The Grace Darling family history surgery sessions will be on Saturday and Sunday, September 8 and 9, at the museum near Ashington. Sessions are free but booking is essential. Call Woodhorn on 01670 528 080 to book a session.
Amazing Grace will premiere at Alnwick Playhouse on Wednesday October 17 and travel to Consett Empire, Hexham Queen’s Hall, Gala Theatre in Durham, Hartlepool Theatre, Gateshead Old Town Hall, Customs House in South Shields, Blyth Phoenix Theatre, Berwick Maltings, finishing at Playhouse Whitley Bay on Saturday, November 3.