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A poem dedicated to Big Hec.

OUR features recalling South Shields-born charity champ Big Hec sparked plenty of memories.

The 6ft 8in, 20-stone gentle giant collected more than PS1 million for good causes before his death, 20 years ago, at the age of 38.

Hec - real name Brian Dowson - was famous for his size 18 boots and rattling his collection buckets all over Tyneside.

Back in 2001, five years after Brian's death, we reported how he had been immortalised as a Shakespearean hero in a new poetry book.

In After Shakespeare, Dr Desmond Graham included a moving poem in memory of Big Hec, comparing him to Kent, a hero from The Bard's King Lear.

Dr Graham, professor of poetry at Newcastle University, said at the time: "I think Big Hec was a marvellous character. I used to see him collecting in a Newcastle pub called the Dog and Parrot and I simply tried to bring him to life.

"I was always impressed with the way he tried to help out, even though some people wanted to bring him down.

"That's why I compare Big Hec to Kent, who is Lear's constant companion, a man who is always helping other people."

KENT (i.m.Big Hec) Kent has buckets, balanced like a milkmaid's, filled with coins - he collects for children; shakes them with a thunderclap of resurrection as he comes in.

The bar staff always know him; punters pass the time of day. He tells them: laid low last week with flat feet, bunions, his giant heart missing a beat, his pulse, his kidneys - and he pulls a face like a comic jailer talking of Death Row.

He is always in the papers and he shows you, clippings scuffed with handing round.

He stands there sweating like a mountain with the first hot sun, in boots from underneath the beanstalk where he rescued Jack. He has a smile as big as saucers and he sinks a pint like sand.

Some said he siphoned off his takings for a living: his flat was ransacked in a hunt for treasure or simply out of hate because he really cared.

This year, the children will go without his calling, his counted pence wrapped up and turned to shrieks of joy: last time his place was broken into, his heart gave way.

DESMOND GRAHAM

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| Big Hec in 1984. The charity champ, real hame Brian Dowson, died 20 years ago

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 1, 2016
Words:400
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