> Lal & Norma Waterson > Songs > Grace Darling

Grace Darling

[ Roud 1441 ; Ballad Index Ran086 ; Bodleian Roud 1441 ; trad.]

Mrs Kate White sang The Story of Grace Darling in 1971 on the BBC Folk on 2 album Northumbrian Folk.

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 wrote in the first album's 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 added:

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.

Jim Eldon sang Grace Darling on his 2004 album Home from Sea. Robert Leng and Jossy ‘Pop’ Mainprize also sang it with him in April 1989 at BBC Radio Humberside; this was included in 2018 on the Musical Traditions CD Songs and Tales from Flamborough Head. They noted:

Grace Darling was popularised on the variety stage by Miss Kate Harvey. There is a third verse but Jossy and Robert only ever sang two.

Megson sang Grace Darling in 2005 on their first CD, On the Side.

Paul and Liz Davenport sang Grace Darling in 2008 on their Hallamshire Traditions CD Songbooks. They noted:

The famous rescue did not happen quite like this. Grace did indeed take an oar in the rescue but she was not alone. The Forfarshire had foundered on the rocks close to the lighthouse and, on the following day, Grace's boat took off the crew who had remained to try to salvage the vessel.

Dave Cousins (of The Strawbs) and Brian Willoughby sang the former's song Grace Darling on their 1979 album Old School Records. They also sang it live at the 4th Nyon Folk Festival in Switzerland in July 1979; This recording was included in the same year on the album Nyon Folk Festival 1979.

Lyrics

Walter Pardon sings 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 seas
Over the 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 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 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 their strength.
Go tell the wide world over what English pluck can do
And sing of brave Grace Darling who nobly saved the crew.

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
Over the water blue
“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.
“'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.
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.
Go tell the wide world over what English hearts can do
And sing of brave Grace Darling who nobly saved the crew.

Grace Darling by Dave Cousins

You have been my lighthouse
In every storm
You have given shelter
You have kept me safe and warm
And in my darkest nights
You have shone your brightest lights
You are my saving grace
Darling, I love you

You have been the pilot
Who guides me home
You have been the my rock
As on the seven seas I roam
And when I was becalmed
You were the strength in my arms
You are my saving grace
Darling, I love you

And when I found my back
Was torn and broken on the reef
You sailed your tiny boat
Across the dark seas of my disbelief

You have been the anchor
And I the chain
Straining as we hold ourselves
Together in the rain
I have found you ever there
My constant keeper's daughter fair
You are my saving grace
Darling, I love you

Acknowledgements and Links

Thanks to Greer Gilman for the transcription.

See also the Mudcat Café threads Origins: Grace Darling (from Walter Pardon) and Origins: Ballad of Grace Darling (various songs).