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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 4°C
james higgins

Heart-breaking new video shows the devastating effect of farm deaths

Here’s what happened to the Higgins family when they lost their “adorable, beautiful” son James.

ON 19 JANUARY 2008, six-year-old James Higgins left home in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly to walk the 50 metres to his grandfather’s house.

He never made it there.

Instead, James became one of the 137 people to die on an Irish farm between 2008 and 2014.

In a powerful new video, the Higgins family and their friends recount the devastating loss of “the most adorable, beautiful little child that you could imagine.”

‘The little cap…was floating around on top of the water’

higgins Ballywire Ballywire

When James didn’t show up at his grandfather’s house, his family went searching for him, as his father Pádraig recalls.

There was no sign of him…
There was a hole dug in the garden for a soak pit, and there was some water in it.
We saw the little green, knitted cap that he would be wearing normally, and it was floating around on top of the water.

james2 Ballywire Ballywire

Fighting back tears, his older brother Colm describes his desperate efforts to find James in the soak pit, searching three times in the water, before finally making the horrifying discovery.

Fully convinced he wasn’t in it, I said I’d go down one more turn, just to be certain…
But whatever way my hand turned, I caught his jumper, and I brought him up. Handed him to Daddy, and panic started then.

‘Santy hasn’t come since’

james3 Ballywire Ballywire

The grief and loss of the Higgins family and local community is palpable.

His teacher Seán Ó’Cuanaigh remembers him as a “special child” – loveable and with a mischievous smile.

Neighbour Billy Duffy smiles while he recalls James as “the most adorable, beautiful little child that you could imagine.”

His blue eyes, his blond hair. He was the hardiest little man that you could ever lay your eyes on.

Losing him to drowning has clearly caused the Higgins family devastation in the last seven years, as his father Pádraig explains.

Christmas will never be the same. Santy was in the house up to that year…Santy hasn’t come since.
There’s a space at the table, there’s always a candle lit at the table for Christmas, where James would be sitting.
We’ll never have that family photograph, because there’ll be always one missing.

‘A farmyard is not a playground’

james4 Jeff Harvey Jeff Harvey

The video, produced by Ballywire, has been released as part of the Embrace Farm campaign to raise awareness about farm safety.

According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), 27 people have died in accidents on farms in Ireland so far this year. Three were children.

That’s already well above the total for 2013, and has provoked calls for farm safety to be taught to primary school children.

Pádraig Higgins explains his family’s motivation to get involved.

We didn’t see the danger. An accident happens in a split-second. People have to be aware of what’s left behind.
What we want to get across is…a farmyard is not a playground.

Here’s that powerful, thought-provoking video in full:

ballywire / YouTube

Read: After another death, calls for farm safety to be taught to primary school kids>

A toddler has died in farm accident in Cork>

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