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  • Writer's pictureHayley Jackson

Famous Brit of the Week - Chad Varah

Today, Mr Browning led an assembly in which he told the story of the Good Samaritan and then explained the role of the 'Samaritans' organisation today. Our Famous Brit of the week is Chad Varah.

He was born in the town of Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire, the eldest of nine children of the vicar at the Anglican church of St Peter. His father, Canon William Edward Varah, named him after St Chad, who, according to Bede, had founded the 7th century monastery 'ad Bearum', 'at Barrow'.

He was educated at Worksop College in north Nottinghamshire and won an exhibition to read Natural Sciences at Keble College, Oxford.

Varah began to understand the problems facing the suicidal when he was taking a funeral as an assistant curate in 1935, his first church service, for a fourteen-year-old girl who had taken her own life. He later said "Little girl, I didn't know you, but you have changed the rest of my life for good." He vowed at that time to help people who were contemplating suicide and had nowhere to turn.

To that end, Chad Varah founded the Samaritans in 1953 in the crypt of his church, with the stated aim that it would be an organisation "to befriend the suicidal and despairing." The phone line, MAN 9000 (for MANsion House), received its first call on 2 November 1953, and the number of calls increased substantially after publicity in the Daily Herald on 7 December 1953.

He was director of the central London branch of Samaritans until 1974, and president from 1974 to 1986. He was also founder chairman of Befrienders Worldwide (Samaritans International) from 1974 to 1983, and then its president from 1983 to 1986.

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