Lionel Hegarty, 74, Outside Tesco, Botley, Oxford

“I’m one of Britain’s oldest vendors but I still play five-a-sides every week”

I’ve been selling the magazine for about nine years to the point where I am now one of the country’s oldest vendors at the age of 74.

I heard about The Big Issue while I was rough sleeping for four years. I love working on my pitch because I like talking to the public and sales have been going well recently. I have plenty of regulars who are all really nice to me and give me food and drink while I’m out on my pitch. Some days you can make a few bob and some days you have to grin and bear it because you make nothing.But I’m really, really happy that I’m involved with The Big Issue, the staff in the office are really nice to me and very helpful. They can’t do enough for me. 

I now try to help people as much as I can, especially homeless people because I have been in their situation

I’ve worked all my life and I’ve done a bit of everything. I was a qualified painter and decorator in Plymouth, and I worked in a hotel washing pots in Brighton. I’ve also worked in a fish and chip shop and I’ve just started volunteering in an Oxfam shop – I’ve done all sorts. Even now I have a paper round that I do before I head to my pitch. I’m up at 6am every day and I don’t get back home until about 8pm. It’s tiring but I love walking
about Oxford.

I’m living in a hostel but I’m hoping to get moved on soon into something more permanent. I’ve had a few tough times – I lost two brothers in the space of a month a couple of years ago. That was a really difficult thing to get over for me.

I now try to help people as much as I can, especially homeless people because I have been in their situation. I’ve done The Big Issue’s Big Night Walk for the last four years – it’s always great to meet other vendors and I
find it to be a really good night out.

I’m also training for a sponsored 4K run around Oxford for Cancer Research and I still play five-a-side football every week! I used to play for Oxford Boys and a local team in my younger days and I still enjoy playing in goal now. In fact, I played in a tournament when I was 67 and managed to be named player of the tournament and got a medal for it! I’m also trying tennis for the second time in my life when I play against my social worker soon. She’ll probably beat me but I’ll give it a go. I’m a busy man!

Shelf Life… 

I’m in the library every afternoon for a few hours. I’ve always loved reading and I’m often found reading military books or even renting out the films and documentaries when I can.

Best foot forward…

Walking around town is one of my favourite things to do, I’m at it all day. I particularly enjoy going around University Park and Christ Church Meadow. They are really nice places to be.

On my pitch…

I’m outside Tesco in Botley, Oxford every day from 10am until 2pm.

Photo: Maciek Tomiczek

Tesco Express, Oxford, Botley, UK