On a coach holiday to Eastbourne
the driver took us on an optional trip out and we stopped for about twenty
minutes at Beachy Head, the highest chalk sea cliff
(163m / 531 ft) and famous suicide spot. We alighted from the coach into bright
sunlight. With fortuitous timing as the driver was telling us someone from the
chaplain service drove along the road about ever twenty minutes looking for
jumpers, the chaplain drove passed.
On average there are 20 jumpers each year. I remember reading a small
column-filler in the newspaper where a young woman had jumped to her death near
Beachy Head and on her body was found a terse note:
“Life is simply not for me.” The story from The Telegraph is below.
I saw a few telephones with the Samaritans number on it. Also the coach
driver said workers at the pub and taxi drivers are also on the look-out for
possible jumpers. Across the globe these cliffs are the third place for people
killing themselves by throwing themselves over an edge: number one is the
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and, number two, the Aokigahara
Woods in Japan.
Looking over the edge was sickeningly exciting. I could remember those
frightening chalky cliffs in a couple of films: Quadrophenia where a man goes
over the top on a scooter and The Living
Daylights when James Bond does the same in a Land Rover - only to parachute
I’ve met two people who have committed suicide successfully - but not by
jumping over Beachy Head. One was the local barber, a
colourful character. One weekend morning one of my mum’s friends rang to say
police had cordoned off a nearby road as some kids had found a body. It worked
out that the barber who’d cut my hair regularly and recently. He was a slight
wimpy gay likeable lad and I heard on the grapevine he’d be selling drugs
through his shop on the precinct. He wanted to stop but the supplier knew he
was a soft as mud and forced him to continue. The pressure heightened, he
cracked and hung himself from a post.
Once I had a flat to rent out and a mother asked if she could bring her
daughter round for a viewing. The daughter had two broken legs and she just
about managed to mount the steep steps on crutches. A slug could have beaten
her to the door of the flat. She’d been in a psychiatric section of the
hospital and tried to jump out of a high window to kill herself. Life was not
broken but two legs were. Thankfully she didn’t like the deep Victorian bath
and didn’t rent the place.
When people hear of someone who’s committed suicide and make remarks
like, “They wouldn’t kill themselves – never in a thousand years,” or “I knew
them inside it; it isn’t in their nature,” I’m surprised. Who really knows the
interior life of another person? Who knows what flights of joy and numbing
misery flex and fluctuate in that grey stuff inches behind our eyes? How can we
ever know what unedited thoughts flow through the windowless back rooms of our
minds where were live alone with ourselves?
I’m fairly sure thoughts of not wanting to live are more common than
anyone knows. I never understand it though. Are not music and books and art a
reason to live? I also think how lucky I am to be here. Millions of my dad’s
sperm died but one made it to one of about 480 eggs my mum released in her
lifetime. I owe it to that tadpole and that egg to live on. I think of suicide
in a practical way. Between 2050 and 2060 I expect to be somewhere towards the
end. As I’ll be single and I baulk at the thought of medical people invading my
privacy I can foresee a trip to Dignitas in
Switzerland to drink a glass of lethal milkshake.
So here is a sad painting on a small canvas. The woman has just walked
into the room to find someone slumped on the couch, slipping into the abyss.
I’m not sure about the picture on the wall but it looks like an object has been
thrown at it.
At Beachy Head, the third most popular place to commit
From The Telegraph
3rd Aug 2005
An outstanding student drowned herself on the eve
of starting at Oxford University because she felt "life is simply not for
Alice McGovern was last been seen by her mother
as she packed in preparation for a chemistry course at New College after
gaining four As at A-level.
But the 18-year-old, who was described by her
boyfriend as a fearless character who was looking forward to her 19th birthday
party at Oxford, never completed her task.
Instead, an inquest heard yesterday, she wrote
three suicide notes - two of which she tore up and threw in a bin - and then
drove 20 miles to the hamlet of Crowlink, near Beachy Head, East Sussex.
One of the notes read: "For all those who
loved me, please don't feel in any way responsible for my death. Life is simply
not for me. I am not filled with grief as I write these words. I simply have no
will to carry on living and the idea of death does not scare me.
"I would especially like to thank Alex [her
boyfriend] for showing me a fantastic summer and making me truly happy. Good
luck with everything in the future and don't let this event stop you from doing
anything. Please don't mourn my death." Another note found on her pillow,
said: "I am so sorry. Please forgive me." She signed it with three
Her body was found in the sea last October near Beachy Head, a spot where she and her family had enjoyed
According to a post-mortem examination, Alice, of
Punnett's Town, near Heathfield,
had drowned and had injuries to her ribs, possibly as a result of falling from
the 150ft cliffs.
The former deputy head girl at the £11,300-a-year
St Leonards-Mayfield School, where her mother Marion, 52, is deputy head, had
enjoyed a glittering school career. Apart from her A-levels in chemistry,
physics, maths and further maths, which won Alice her school's Gibbs Cup for
academic excellence, she had earlier attained 11 GCSEs, all at A-star grade.
As captain of the hockey club, she led the
under-16 team to victory in the Sussex schoolgirls' championships in 2001. She
also played the oboe and acted in school plays.
Alex Green, her boyfriend, told the Eastbourne
inquest: "She was always very happy and extremely cheery and was the most
upbeat character I had ever known. She was always the sort of person to look on
the bright side of life.
"She was looking forward to meeting new
people and trying new things. She was going to plan a 19th birthday party at
Oxford and invite lots of people. She was genuinely looking forward to it. I
have never really known her to be fearful of anything. She was a fearless
character. But she had an extremely happy time at school and in her teenage
years and I think that, although she never said it, she was going to miss me
and the life she had."
Recording a verdict of suicide, Alan Craze, the
coroner, said: "It gives me absolutely no pleasure at all to have to
return such a verdict in relation to somebody who was such an outstanding and
talented girl and who died in such tragic circumstances."
After the hearing Alice's father, Christopher,
54, said: "There was no indication that she was going to take her