Suicide can touch the whole farming commuinity

I became friends with Ted Moult years ago when I presented the TV Farming programme for the BBC on Sunday lunchtimes.

For young readers who may not remember him, I should explain that Ted looked like what he was – a working farmer. He had a wife, Marie, and a large family on his farm near Ticknall in Derbyshire. But Ted was more than a farmer. He had an amazing brain and was one of the best-informed people I have ever met, made the more remarkable by his photographic memory. He never forgot anything.

It was this, together with his rural humour and charm, that earned him invitations to appear on BBC TV quiz programmes where his comprehensive knowledge confirmed him as a regular for many years. He joined me occasionally on farming programmes and later became even more famous on ITV for double glazing commercials.

I remember having a long chat with him at a Royal Show at Stoneleigh. He was on good form, cracking jokes at my expense, as usual, and enjoying the show. We then had several weeks of wet weather and it was a worry to arable farmers trying to gather harvest. But it got to Ted, who persuaded himself he was never going to get his grain into the barn and one morning he locked himself in his office and took his life.

It was a dreadful shock to all who knew him, especially his family. Marie told me later her doctor had explained the chemical balance in Ted’s brain had been disturbed. But anyone close to such a tragedy is bound to wonder what, if anything, they could have done to avert it. In the end those left behind can only grieve and wonder why?

In more recent years a young (40ish) farmer in this area (who squired my daughter around when they were in Young Farmers) disappeared and was found some hours later having done the same thing. He had appeared happy running and expanding his business. There was no real warning that he was about to take his life. And his young wife and others close to him were left devastated by the action he had taken.

A year or so later another young Norfolk farmer, who had gone to school with both my sons, and who was making positive progress in his farming and extracurricular activities, drove his Range Rover to his milking parlour and took his own life. He left a wife and two young sons and once again no apparent reason for what he did. Norfolk’s farming community was once again distraught at such a waste of a bright and able young man.

The latest farm suicide near here was the pig farmer whose workers were filmed ill-treating his animals a few months ago. Even though he was the innocent party he was so overwhelmed by guilt and feeling he’d let his industry down that he too decided to end it all.

It was clear why he did what he did. The others, presumably, had found some problem had got on top of them and hadn’t felt able – or been willing – to talk about it to others who could have helped. Don’t let it happen to you. Talk to someone you can trust.

David Richardson farms about 400ha (1,000 acres) of arable land near Norwich in Norfolk in partnership with his wife, Lorna. His son, Rob, is farm manager.


Useful helpline numbers:

YANA (You Are Not Alone) 0300 323 0400

Rural Stress Helpline 0845 0948286

Samaritans 0845 790 9090


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