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Grace Darling

To focus upon the work of coastal and marine rescue with reference to the courage of Grace Darling.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To focus upon the work of coastal and marine rescue with reference to the courage of Grace Darling.

Preparation and materials

  • Images relating to the story of Grace Darling and further pictures of marine rescue today  – available from the internet, subject to copyright.

  • If there are classes that have recently studied Grace Darling as part of the national curriculum, this assembly might provide the opportunity for them to present their work.
  • A representative of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) or Auxiliary Coastguard might be invited to share in this, or a follow-up assembly.
  • Useful Websites:
    RNLI, including an animated version of the story of Grace Darling: http://www.rnli.org.uk/Shorething/Youth/
    http://www.ict.oxon-lea.gov.uk/history.html contains a PowerPoint version of the story (check copyright).

Assembly

  1. Invite everyone to imagine what it might be like to live in a lighthouse – the only people upon a small island. If such a situation might seem lonely and remote, then how much more so before the invention of the telephone or radio!
  2. Go on to explain how that was the experience of the Darling family, whose father was keeper of the Longstone Lighthouse. William Darling lived with his wife and grown-up daughter on a small rocky island a short distance off the Northumberland coast.
  3. Tell the story of Grace Darling:

    On 7 September 1838, a steamship, the Forfarshire, was driven onto rocks, about a mile away from the lighthouse. Early in the morning Grace and her family could see people clinging on to the rocks and crying for help.

    The wind and waves were so strong that they knew it would be impossible to launch any lifeboats from the shore.  What were they to do?

    Grace and her father bravely set off alone in their large, heavy rowing boat (called a coble), which really needed three strong men to manage it.

    After a terrible struggle through the high waves they eventually reached the rocks where nine people were still alive.

    Grace was left to try to steady the coble while her father clambered onto the rocks to help. If the boat was damaged on the rocks then there would be no way of getting back safely to the lighthouse.

    There was only room for five of the people in the boat. Together, they made the difficult and dangerous journey back to the lighthouse. Then Grace and her mother cared for the survivors while Grace’s father and two of the ships crew went back to save the others.

    The weather was so bad that it was another three days before the storm died down and help arrived from the shore.

    When news of the rescue spread, Grace Darling and her father were awarded medals for their brave action.  Grace’s story became well known, and it is still being told today.

  4. Invite the children to consider why the story is still being told. Grace Darling was an ordinary person who became a well-known heroine. How would you describe Grace’s character? Reflect that a hero is ‘an ordinary person who helps others in extraordinary ways’, someone who ‘overcomes risk and danger to save others’.
  5. Refer to the work of the RNLI – the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
    Inquire whether anyone has visited a lifeboat station and briefly discuss the work of the RNLI.

    Highlight that:
    – the RNLI is a charity that saves lives at sea
    – RNLI lifeboats are stationed around the coast of the UK and Ireland. (The lifeboat at Seahouses in Northumberland is called Grace Darling.)
    – RNLI lifeguards help to keep people safe on busy beaches
    – The lifeboat crews and lifeguards are volunteers – ordinary people who give their time freely to save lives and help others in danger.

    Remind the children of how to summon help in an emergency.

    Back in 1838, the RNLI was one of the organizations that presented a medal for bravery to Grace Darling. It still presents medals when volunteer lifeguards and lifeboat crew show extraordinary skill and bravery in rescuing others.  Some of their stories and pictures can be found on the RNLI website.

Time for reflection

The Bible has a story telling how Jesus went to the help of his friends when their boat was being tossed about in a fierce storm. ‘Have courage! Don’t be afraid!’ Jesus said.

Prayer
As we remember Grace Darling and her father,
we think of those today who brave frightening seas to help and rescue others.
May they be given the courage and wisdom they need in facing danger.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Waves are beating' (Come and Praise, 84)

Publication date: February 2011   (Vol.13 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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