Thursday, September 12, 2019 – Bamburgh, UK
Written by Jim
As is probably evident by now, we are easy hooks for a great lifesaving story. When Mike from A Bit About Britain published a story in June about a heroine lifesaver along the Northumberland coast, we knew we had to squeeze the stop into our itinerary.
Bamburgh is a quaint little town in northeast England that lies adjacent to the North Sea. That body of water is legendary for it’s ferocious storms and it’s deep history. Vikings sailed here, the Dutch built dikes to keep it out, and Germany tried to conquer the world through it in World War II, as the North Sea is their only connection to the ocean.
Towering high over the hamlet of Bamburgh is the villages’ namesake castle. The Normans…who I am a descendent of through my French Canadian ancestry…built the core of this massive edifice a thousand years ago. I’ll let you know if I’m able to ever trace back to this lovely piece of real estate. 😉
What would seem long ago to those of us visiting from America, an event took place within the castle’s view in its relatively recent history. On September 7, 1838, a gale forced the steamer Forfarshire onto a rocky island a few miles offshore from Bamburgh, breaking it in two. A 23 year old woman by the name of Grace Darling, daughter to the lighthouse keeper on nearby Longstone Island, spotted the wreck and saw that there were survivors scrambling onto the rocks. She and her father rowed a mile out to the wreck in a 21 foot coble, as time was of the essence. While her dad disembarked to help the eight men and one woman, Grace kept the boat steady in the heavy seas using only the oars and her will. They brought five of them back on the first trip, then Grace stayed behind at the lighthouse during the second trip out.
Thus, another legendary figure took her place in the annals of the North Sea. Newspaper accounts made her famous, but time was not on her side. A mere three years later, she died of tuberculosis.
Grace is buried in the churchyard next to St. Aidan’s Church.
Her effigy above her tomb is fittingly holding an oar.
After a visit to her grave, we stepped inside the church.
The present building dates from the twelfth century, but St. Aidan built the original structure here in 635. He passed away leaning against a wooden beam that survived two subsequent fires.
That Y-shaped beam supports the ceiling high above the baptismal font.
After visiting the church and Grace Darling’s grave, we headed to the beach to dip our fingers into the North Sea.
The pathway through the dunes was thick with beach grass.
The shoreline was wide open and calm, far different than the night Grace and her father rowed out to save those nine souls. We walked a half mile up the beach to the other end of the castle and back to our waiting motorhome. A nice way to top off a worthwhile visit to an English heroine’s hometown.
Next up, the first of several posts from Scotland! Be sure to stay tuned for that. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!
To read A Bit About Britain’s eloquent post on Grace Darling, click HERE.