News

Customers raise thousands of pounds to pay for funeral of much-loved Big Issue seller

There has been an outpouring of emotion ever since popular Oxford seller Lionel Hegarty died on June 7 at the age of 78.

Big Issue vendor Lionel Hegarty

Big Issue vendor Lionel Hegarty, pictured in September 2021, was much-loved in Botley where he sold the magazine. Image: Michelle Scotland

The customers of much-loved Big Issue vendor Lionel Hegarty have raised thousands of pounds to pay for his funeral after he died earlier this month.

The 78 year old, who sold the magazine outside the Co-op in Botley, Oxford, died on the morning of June 7 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He had spent the last three weeks of his life in Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital after suffering a stroke.

The popular seller had become a beloved member of the local community after years on the same patch. But with no family, Hegarty was facing the prospect of a pauper’s funeral until his customers raised almost £4,500 to give him a fitting send-off.

Hegarty’s funeral will be held on July 4 at Botley Baptist Church from 11am.

One of his customers, Megan Antell started the fundraiser. She said: “Many people had been to visit him in hospital over the past few weeks so he knew how loved was and was in high spirits to the very end. 

“Unfortunately as it stands he has no next of kin and. therefore, no one to help pay for his funeral. The last thing any of us want is for him to have a pauper’s funeral.”

Simon Smith, a sales development worker for The Big Issue in Oxford, said Lionel was always active in Big Issue events and became well-known in Botley.

“Lionel was a well loved and respected Big Issue vendor in Oxford, known for his warmth and kindness to the public, regulars, other vendors, and staff alike,” said Smith.

“He was a keen supporter of The Big Issue and the plight of the homeless. His endeavours have included his completion of sponsored Night Walks across London, an after-show talk at a local theatre and, in his seventies, he played his goal-saving part in a football tournament, representing Big Issue vendors.”

Layla Moran, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, also paid tribute to the late vendor. She said: “I was really sad to hear that long time Botley Big Issue seller Lionel Hegarty passed away. He was often outside the Coop. I used to buy him a coke and custard creams as he loved them.”

Hegarty started selling The Big Issue around 2009 and was one of the country’s oldest vendors when he died. He told The Big Issue in a 2018 interview that he had been sleeping rough for four years when he started selling the magazine.

Hegarty went on to live in homeless accommodation Matilda House while continuing to sell the magazine.

Article continues below

Current vacancies...

Search jobs

Hegarty last appeared in the magazine last September as part of a special edition of the magazine written completely by Big Issue vendors.

He submitted a poem as part of the magazine. It read: 

I am a happy Big Issue man

I love going to work when I smile to all of the public

That makes me happy

I love what I am doing so much

I am a cheerful man at all times

I’m glad to be a Big Issue seller

My Pitch is Botley Westway

This is me on my pitch

Happy days are here again

Here to stay

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Rewilding is bringing creatures great and small back to UK – but a lack of funds is holding it back
Rewilding

Rewilding is bringing creatures great and small back to UK – but a lack of funds is holding it back

FOSO is the new FOMO: Why are we so afraid to switch off and be out of office?
Work

FOSO is the new FOMO: Why are we so afraid to switch off and be out of office?

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'
dwp pip/ disabled person
Disability benefits

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP
dwp jobcentre
Department for Work and Pensions

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know