The telling

Jesse Bering:

frayed leather wallet. A broken watch. Some coins. A ballpoint pen missing a screw. For 11-year-old Maddy Reid, this was all that remained of her soft-spoken accountant father … an assortment of 59-year-old George Reid’s meagre belongings emptied onto the kitchen table. ‘It’s gruesome, I know, but I think they still had his blood on them.’

And then there was the music; those hauntingly familiar tunes. ‘For years growing up, there were songs that immediately made me think of him,’ said Maddy, now a 49-year-old artist living in Cornwall. ‘Like, this is going to sound ridiculous, but you know that old song Big John? It’s such an old one, a Western. Dad grew up in Belfast but he was born in Georgia, and he seemed to have an American influence in his musical taste.’

On 25 March 1980, Maddy and her brother, Philip, 14, had just got home from school when there was an unexpected knock at the door. There, were two policemen, solemn-looking, hats removed, asking to speak with their mother. ‘You just think, what’s going on? What’s this about?’ said Maddy. ‘Mum goes into another room with them. They leave, she comes back into the kitchen, sits down at the table and – I’ll never forget this – she has that clear plastic bag with my dad’s stuff in it. “Right,” she tells us. “Your father’s dead. He’s killed himself. He jumped in front of a train. Here’s what he had on him.”’