> Lal & Norma Waterson > Songs > Grace Darling

Grace Darling

[ Roud 1441 ; Ballad Index Ran086 ; trad.]

Walter Pardon sang Grace Darling in 1977 on his Leader record Our Side of the Baulk.

Lal and Norma Waterson and Lal's daughter Maria Knight sang Grace Darling in the same year on their album A True Hearted Girl. This track was included re-released on the 1992 CD reissue of For Pence and Spicy Ale.

Bob Davenport notes in the A True Hearted Girl sleeve notes:

Last year [1976, ed.], as part of the United States Bicentennial celebrations, some British and Irish performers were invited to take part in a Folk Festival in Washington, D.C. The Watersons were among those invited and so was Walter Pardon from Norfolk. He is a fine traditional singer, and the family and Walter became firm friends on that trip. The result was he sent them a tape of some songs for them to learn, and among them was his mother's favourite, Grace Darling.

Greer Gilman notes:

A printed text of Walter Pardon's version, recorded by Bill Leader in 1977, may be found in The Oxford Book of English Traditional Verse, chosen and edited by Frederick Woods (Oxford University Press, 1983). The Watersons' lyrics differ only slightly from his; I have bracketed in his original words.

Lyrics

Lal and Norma Waterson and Maria Knight sing Grace Darling

'Twas on a longstone lighthouse, there dwelt an English maid,
Pure as the air around her, of danger ne'er afraid.
One morning just at daybreak a storm-tossed wreck she spied:
Although to try seemed madness, “I'll save the crew!” she cried.

Chorus (after each verse):
And she pulled away o'er the rolling sea [seas]
Over the water blue [waters wide]
“Help, help!” she could hear the cry
Of the shipwrecked crew.
But Grace had an English heart
The raging storm she braved
She pulled away mid the dashing spray
And the crew she saved.

They to the rocks were clinging, a crew of nine all told,
Between them and the lighthouse the seas like mountains rolled
Grace said, “Come help me, father, we'll launch the boat,” said she. [said Grace]
“'Tis madness,” said her father, “to face that raging sea.”

One murmured prayer, heaven guard us, and then they were afloat,
Between them and destruction, the planks of their brave boat [that frail boat].
Then said the maiden's father, “Turn back or doomed are we.”
Then up spoke brave Grace Darling, “Alone I'll brave the sea.”

They rode the angry billows and reached the rock at length.
They saved the shipwrecked sailors, in heaven alone our strength. [their strength]
Go tell the wide world over what English hearts can do [English pluck]
And sing of brave Grace Darling who nobly saved the crew.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Greer Gilman for the transcription.