Right at the height of Covid 19, when it seemed that the world was never going to be the same again, one of our much-loved and respected local families suffered a tragedy. It has left them and the rest of us reeling from shock.

Grant Leslie McMillan took his own life on Saturday, March 28, 2020.

For everyone, particularly his family, Grant’s passing has left a huge gap and many unanswered questions.

Grant and his wife Sandy were arguably one of the best and most capable farming couples in our district.

They are a great family, with a well run farm and everything seemed fine, all things considered.

Many of you will have noted the progress they have made on their Ongarue farm with infrastructure and environmental improvements (see Country-Wide April, 2019).

Their most notable achievement though, is their flock of Wiltshire self shedding sheep, a great success story, if ever there was one. (Granty McMillandales, self shedding sheep!)

To his friends and acquaintances, Grant was known as “Granty’, he is best described as a really good chap.

Earnest, with a twinkle in his eye, and a kindly attitude, Grant seemed reasonably happy, at least to the rest of us looking on.

In life, every now and then you cross the paths of great people, living good lives and doing a good job of everyday things.

And so it was with Grant and Sandy.

I can’t remember not knowing Grant. Sandy I’ve known even longer as she grew up as part of the wider family of employees in an electrical firm I did my apprenticeship with many years ago.

Our children went to high school with theirs and from time to time there has always been some contact and friendly interaction.

I remember Jason, their son, falling in love with an old Valiant car I had in a shed (1973 Regal V8).

I decided to give it to Jason so he could get the pleasure of owning it and restoring it to better than it was when it was new.

I think that Grant and I both had a lot of pleasure watching and admiring what Jason did with the car. (It is now beautifully restored by Jason who has become an artist in metal).

So, during the lockdown, when I heard what had happened I was shocked to the core and still struggled with what had occurred.

The hard part for all of us is that, if we had ever had any inkling that Grant needed support, we would have been there for him.

Sadly, suicide is not like that, even close family members who are aware of depression or other issues do not always get the chance to divert the victim from the path they have chosen.

The work done in the community by individuals and groups raising awareness of the issue needs to be supported by us all, as the pain and legacy from such a passing is a terrible burden.

On the bright side though (if there is one) we can remember Grant for the type of person he was.

He was a much loved husband, father and grandfather.

Grant was one of the best feeders of animals I have ever known, a successful farmer and businessman; he did a good job of anything he took on.

One of our mutual friends often said to me that “Grant could successfully farm anything he wanted to; mice, alpacas, buffalo, goats, sheep with no wool!”

“He would do well with any species as he knows how to feed things!”

Grant was an advocate of the “do it once and do it well” school of thought.

Rest in peace Grant, know that we do miss you and in any minute of thought about you, we exercise a full range of emotions.

To Sandy, Sarah and Todd, Jason and Aleisha and your little ones, know that we all love and admire you for your strength.

May the good memories you have of Grant give you solace and peace.