HE WAS a fixture of New Milton high street, always ready with a smile and a caring word despite battling his own troubles.
In rain, wind and cold, Ed Sirani would sell the Big Issue in Station Road, earning many friends over the years.
Now tributes have poured in following the announcement that Ed, who was honoured by the Big Issue charity for his tireless support, has died.
He sold the publication in the town for more than a decade, his pitch in recent years being outside McColl’s where a tribute to him has been placed, along with flowers.
Salvation Army officer Joe Bailey visited Ed in Royal Bournemouth Hospital shortly before he died on 20th September.
He said: “He had been struggling with ill-health for about two months and then he had not come to New Milton for two weeks. I went to his flat in Southbourne and he was not there.
“I phoned the hospital and was put through to the stroke unit where he had been admitted on 8th September. I went to see him and sadly he was unconscious. I was then phoned by the hospital to be told he had died.”
Mr Bailey struck up a friendship with Ed when they were both selling magazines in the high street, with him offering issues of War Cry.
He said: “I think he was Albanian and about 62. He used to come to New Milton two or three times a week basically because it gave him the chance to chat with people. He lived alone and I don’t think he saw anyone else.
“He struggled to walk but would catch the bus to the train station where he caught the train to New Milton.
“People were very fond of him. During lockdown when he stayed at home, they would give me money to pass on to him, saying they were missing him.
“He was very pleased to think that he had not been forgotten. Ed was happy to chat to anyone, even if they didn’t buy the magazine.
“The guys on the fruit stall at the weekly market would often give him a tangerine and he would then come and give me half.
“At Christmas he would give all his regular customers a card. A lot of people have been very saddened to hear of his death.”
After an announcement of Ed’s passing was posted on social media many local residents wrote about their memories of him.
One said: “He was a lovely man and committed to the cause, and like many others in his situation of homelessness, mental health, and generally difficult times, funded his very own survival to help him through on a day-to-day basis. R.I.P Ed. You will be missed.”
Another commented: “When we moved to New Milton my husband always bought the BI from Ed. My husband developed Alzheimer’s and one day went wandering off when I went into a shop. Ed saw him wandering and went after him and made him stay with him until I came. A very caring man.”
Others remembered his sunny character, with one saying: “He always had a smile for everyone”, with another posting: “Oh no! But he is always there! Part of the town.”
Among the tributes was one which read: “Such a kind, caring man. I loved him and feel very sad. At peace with the angels”.
Another said: “Such a nice friendly guy. He will definitely be missed by all in New Milton.”
One local wrote: “Such a kind-hearted man. Believed in and saw the good in people. Gave his smile, greeting and having time for everyone. What a loss to our community.”
Another sad resident wrote: “The man was quite definitely a local character who would always pass the time of day with those that wanted to speak with him.
“He has been selling his magazines in that location for as long as I can remember, probably 10-12 years.”
The charity to which Ed devoted so much of his life also paid tribute to him.
Kirsten Thomas, Big Issue sales and operation manager for the south west, said: “Eddie took great pride and pleasure in selling the Big Issue in New Milton, where he considered his customers to be more like friends. Eddie was very caring, kind and considerate, and everyone here at the Big Issue will all miss him very much, as I know the community of New Milton will too.”
Ed was honoured by the charity for being the Bournemouth office’s vendor of the year in 2015.
It said Ed had been chosen for the award for his “commitment, sales, customer feedback and for being a much-loved part of the New Milton community”.
It added: “Ed has worked tirelessly throughout the year in all weathers to provide the New Milton community with their weekly copy of the Big Issue.
“He has helped increase his sales and the profile of The Big Issue in New Milton by having a display stand to educate the public about the Big Issue and Big Issue Foundation and what he is trying to achieve.”