On Monday 11 June 2007, 34-year-old Grant Shannon started work in a new job at a farm on the Scottish borders. He and his wife, Fiona, had only moved four weeks previously into their dream home nearby, a lovely old cottage set in the countryside. Fiona, a college lecturer, and Grant were looking forward to their new life and had started to plan a family. Grant in particular was extremely happy because he was returning to the work he loved most – farming.
Four days later Grant was dead, killed when the ATV he was using to move cattle across a field swerved and he was thrown head first into a tree. Grant had received no formal training on the vehicle and was not wearing a helmet. A vehicle inspection report carried out as part of the investigation into the fatal accident revealed that the ATV had worn tyres and deficient brakes. Fiona and Grant had been together for 12 happy years. They first met at a night club in Edinburgh. She was then a student studying for a degree in social work and he was a chef. It was love at first sight. They went home together to Grant’s apartment and after that first night never parted from each other. “I knew him when I first set eyes on him,” said Fiona. “We met, got together and neither of us wanted anything or anyone else. We married and had a wonderful life shared with our many friends.”
Although he was a qualified chef, Grant still really loved farming. The couple moved out of Edinburgh and bought an apartment at Roslin in the countryside. Fiona initially worked helping homeless people and Grant went back to college for a two year course in countryside management. Fiona became a college lecturer specialising in social care. Eventually the couple were in a position to buy their own home and chose a cottage at Whitsomehill in the Scottish borders. Grant got a job at a large farm nearby. “He had some previous work experience on dairy farms and was so thrilled and excited about the new job. We loved our new home and could not have been happier,” Fiona said. “We had started to plan for a family of our own.”
Fiona was at work that afternoon when she was told about the accident. She said in shock that there must have been a mistake. She insisted that her husband was fine as she had seen him before he went to work that morning. “Grant was a keen motor cyclist and always wore a helmet. It was so unlike him just to have got on a machine he had never ridden before without the proper gear and without any knowledge of the vehicle,” she said.” All I could think was that he had been asked to do this particular job and because it was new and he was really keen he had just got on with it without stopping to think.”
“Part of the HSE investigation into the accident involved an inspection of the vehicle which revealed that there were faults on the machine. Initially I was very angry. Angry because his employers had not ensured his safety and as a result I had lost him and angry with Grant because I thought he should have known better.”
Fiona moved away from the area quite soon after the tragedy. “If I went into the village for shopping I would hear people talking about the accident. They did not know who I was of course but I could not bear it so I felt I had to move away.
“Friends too were devastated by his death. I could not bear to meet with them either because Grant had always been there too so I shut myself off. They told me that they felt they had lost two friends. not one. But I could not see them because it just brought back memories of Grant and I also felt a little jealous that they all still had each other. It takes a lot of time to realise that the person you really loved and lived for has gone and the first year after his death was a matter of survival. But it was the second year of his loss that I found the hardest. I would wake in the morning thinking how will I get through the day? I am only 40 and I have to live for the next 40 years without him.”
She says her life was shattered into a million pieces by Grant’s death.
“In the last two years I have struggled and struggled to put the pieces of my life back together. I eventually realised that it was impossible. It took me all that time to finally understand that the person I was when Grant was alive - me as I was then - could never return because in losing him I had lost my life as I knew it. “
“It is only recently that I have accepted that and thanks to the support of one or two new friends I have made in the area I now live in I have begun to feel slightly better.”
Fiona says she has told her story in support of the “Make the Promise” campaign.
“If only someone that morning had thought about whether Grant should have been wearing a protective helmet or whether the vehicle had been recently checked to ensure it was in sound condition, he would still be here.
“The campaign message ‘Come home safe’ says it all. I would say to anyone in the farming industry – employer or employee – who reads this please take time to think and act on safety risks before starting a job.”
“It is too late for Grant, too late once the accident has happened. Nothing is worth the waste of a life.”