The sheer cliff at Watson Bay, in Australia, also known as ‘the Gap’ has long been a notorious suicide spot. But between 1964 and 2012 the place had been guarded by an Angel. His name was Don Ritchie, a wonderful man who had resided across the road from the cliff all these years.
Picture: Craig Greenhill
For almost 50 years Don Ritchie kept a voluntary watch on people entering The Gap from his bedroom window. When he spotted what looked like potentially, suicidal people, the kind man would slowly walk across the road and when arrived at the cliff-edge where the desperate people were often perched, would ask them with a smile and calm voice “Can I help you in some way?”. The sympathetic approach was a surprise for these lost people who most of the time would imperceptibly let themselves engaged in a conversation and eventually convinced to have a cup of tea or a beer at Don’s home.
As the kind man confessed once “My ambition has always been to just get them away from the edge, to buy them time, to give them the opportunity to reflect and give them the chance to realize that things might look better the next morning”.
Indeed, with his smile and kind words, Don Ritchie had successfully persuaded 160 people not to jump to their deaths, but unofficially the figure it is said to be closer to 400 people.
Don Ritchie was a very modest man and believed any publicity could attract more depressed people. This didn’t stop people though to spread the word about him. He was known as the ‘Watchman’ or the ‘Angel of the Gap’. He also attracted the authorities’ attention being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his rescues, he also received together with his wife Moya the distinction of ‘Citizens of the Year’ for 2010 by Woollahra Council (the local government authority responsible for The Gap), and named ‘Australia’s Local Hero’ for 2011.
Don Ritchie passed away in 2012 at the age of 85, surrounded by his widow Moya, their three daughters and friends.
Today the Gap is equipped with police cameras and emergency phones to crisis counselors. However, we should all remember Don’s lesson: spread kind words and offer a friendly smile and you can help many hurt souls reconsider ending their lives.
Top incoming search terms:
- don ritchie and his word
- words of don ritchie