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Tributes paid after death of Big Issue vendor ‘Ben Nevis Bob’

Readers and locals have left flowers and tributes near the Jubilee Clock Tower after the tragic death of a much-loved Big Issue vendor

Big Issue vendor Bob MacLeod in Brighton. Photo: Adam Bronkhorst

Tributes have poured in for a popular Big Issue vendor in Brighton who died earlier this month.

Originally from the north of Scotland, Bob MacLeod, 42, sold the magazine across from the Jubilee Clock Tower in the south coast town.

Bob – affectionately known as ‘Ben Nevis’ Bob – was a well-liked figure in Brighton and locals and customers left tributes at his pitch outside Waterstones.

He passed away on July 3, however the cause of death is still unknown.

“It’s so sad, a real shock to be honest,” said Anton Collins, Bookstore Manager at Waterstones Brighton. “Bob had a lot plans and hope, talking about going back to Scotland, starting to reconnect with his family.

Big Issue vendor Bob MacLeod in Brighton. Photo: Adam Bronkhorst

“All the staff here got to know him. We’d chat to him every day, about how he was getting on, or films, football, TV… Scotland! He used to read a lot of history books, military history particularly. He used to buy books from us on occasion, and sometimes we’d pass on proofs to him.

“From the day he started he was a big personality, and always keen to get on with everyone. He was here pretty much every day, come rain or shine – it was a strange day if he wasn’t.

“Since he passed away, so many people have come in and asked us what happened, or what’s happening in terms of a service. It’s made us aware of how much our customers were also his customers.”

Anton Collins, Bookstore Manager at Waterstones in Brighton, said the late Big Issue vendor Bob MacLeod was a "big personality" and will be missed by staff and locals.

Reader Liz Robinson said: “I had £2.50 ready for my Big Issue today, but there was no Bob to sell it to me.

I will miss our little chats, I will miss his big Bob personality.

“Instead there were flowers and a card to say Bob had died. It was a shock and I feel bereft. He brightened my visits to Brighton even though I could not always understand his broad Scots accent.

“I will miss his welcoming face at the Clock Tower, I will miss our little chats, I will miss his big Bob personality. Thank you Bob.”

A tribute to the late Big Issue vendor Bob MacLeod near his pitch in Brighton.

“I was heartbroken today to see the tributes to Bob outside Waterstones in Brighton,” added fellow customer and friend Eunice Kenny.

“He was the first friend I made in Brighton when I moved here four years ago. We had so many great conversations and I cherish the bottle stopper he gave me as I know he loved the piece of lava I brought back for him from Vesuvius.”

Bob was a bright light, a friend to many. He will be missed

Peter Bird, National Distribution Director at the Big Issue, said: “I was fortunate to have known Bob personally for many years. He was a bright light in an often dull and depressing world. Since he sadly passed away, we have spoken to so many local people who have told us that Bob would always be there for them with a cheerful smile and often make their day by kind gestures such as offering to buy them a coffee if they were feeling down.”

He added: “Bob was a real character, an incredibly well-liked man, and a hard-working and valued member of The Big Issue community, it’s a really sad time and he will be missed by all. We have been touched by the show of support and affection from his customers and friends in Brighton, who have been sharing their stories, memories and experiences. Big Issue vendors work hard in all weathers to earn a living, and often over time they become important figures in their local communities. It is good to know that Bob was appreciated and cared for so much and we thank all those who have contacted us about him.”

Bob started selling The Big Issue after moving to Brighton more than a decade ago. He had struggled with alcoholism and liver problems, but managed to get sober seven years ago – the same age as his dad was when he passed away.

I was heartbroken today to see the tributes to Bob outside Waterstones in Brighton

“I was a big drinker,” he told The Big Issue in his ‘My Pitch’ profile in 2012. “I had just turned 35 and my old man had died at the age of 35 because of the drink and a heart attack. So when I woke up on my 35th birthday I thought, I can’t do this anymore. I went cold turkey, sweated it out and gave it up. I kept thinking about my old man – he was always in the back of my mind.

Bob was a keen fisher, had a passion for archaeology – “my dream holiday would be Pompeii!” – and enjoyed camping. He lived in a tent near the beach in recent years and, tragically, had plans to return home to Scotland in the future.

I don’t think people realise that The Big Issue is a lifeline. It gives you something when you have nothing else

“I’m thinking about heading back to the Highlands,” he said. “There are people I haven’t seen for a long time. I feel as if something’s calling me back to Scotland. Meanwhile, selling the magazine keeps me going.

“I don’t think people realise that The Big Issue is a lifeline. It gives you something when you have nothing else.”

He will be missed by everybody at The Big Issue. We pass on our condolences to his loved ones.

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