TO A fierce gale hit the northeast coast of Britain on the night that made Grace Darling a star of popular history. He would become a beacon of bravery for the Victorians as he set out in a small rowboat to help the distressed passengers of the sinking. SS Forfarshire.
It will now be celebrated with a large art installation in Northumberland, commissioned by the Museum of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) that bears his name.
Darling, who was born in Bamburgh, Northumberland, in 1815 and raised in the nearby Farne Islands, was the daughter of lighthouse keeper William Darling.
In the early hours of September 7, 1838, at age 22, he saw the remains of the Forfarshire on a nearby rocky island. The weather was too harsh to launch the lifeboat, so Darling and his father went out to sea in a small rowboat, or coble, to rescue the stranded survivors.
The paddle steamer had sailed from Hull to Dundee with about 60 passengers and crew, but its boilers had started to leak heavily when the storm hit, and eventually failed. The ship began to drift, powered only by a makeshift sail, eventually sinking into Big Harcar rock, with more than 40 people believed to have died at sea.
Darling’s extraordinary act of bravery became known internationally, made headlines and even reached Queen Victoria. He became the media celebrity of his day and was showered with honors, including the RNLI silver medal for gallantry.
Now artist Sophie dixon has created a multiscreen film, which will be released on September 7, on the 183rd anniversary of the rescue mission, to commemorate his feat. Visual installation by Dixon, titled Funny, follows her story from childhood until her death from tuberculosis in 1842, at just 26 years old, filling in many lost details of the life of a woman who became a household name.
“Grace’s role in the rescue is known around the world, but for many, that’s all they know about her,” said Dixon, whose art focuses on memory, history and myth-making. His installation was developed using archives from the Bamburgh RNLI museum, as well as letters, records and photographs found in the Northumberland and Trinity House archives.
“Funny is a poetic exploration of Darling’s life and the impact of his fame, and is inspired by several accounts, often contradictory, “added Dixon, whose show will transport visitors to Grace’s home on Longstone Island, accompanied by an original sheet music by Kathy Alberici that weaves the natural sounds of the Farne Islands with the voices of the northeast.
“A lot of people know about the rescue, but they are often less aware of Darling’s life before and after that, and the impact that event had on her. It will help those who know history well to experience it differently, ”said Marleen Vincenten, manager of heritage development at the RNLI Grace Darling museum.
“Sophie’s film will bring a new perspective to Grace Darling’s story and help visitors to our museum learn more about her as a person.” The artwork is part of Meeting Point, a national program funded by the Arts Council and run by the contemporary arts agency. Arts and heritage that links artists to museums and heritage sites.
“Working with artists can help museums present their collections in a whole new way. Funny uses digital technology to tell a story that many have grown up with, but from Grace’s own perspective, ”said Stephanie Allen, the agency’s executive director. “It opens parts of his life that we do not know and helps us better understand a story that is almost 200 years old.”
The show will be open at the museum until October and can also be seen at a website.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism