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Farewell to London street poet Roy McDonald 'not your typical funeral'

A who's who of London's arts and culture scene said goodbye to the city's legendary street poet and philosopher Roy McDonald.

People from all walks of life shared stories, songs and a few laughs about a familiar face

Saying goodbye to Roy McDonald 0:50

A who's who of London's arts and culture scene gathered at a downtown funeral home Friday to say goodbye to the city's legendary street poet and philosopher Roy McDonald. 

The 80-year-old, whose regular presence in downtown London's weekend bar scene, earned him the nickname "the mayor of Richmond Row" died last month. 

- Bill Paul

"This is not your typical funeral," said London's town crier and longtime friend of McDonald, Bill Paul. "We're all Roy's special friends. He made us feel special. He listened to everything we had to tell him and he introduced us to everybody on the planet. He was the great connector." 

'I met everyone at Metro'

Anyone who spent time in London's downtown bar scene would remember Roy McDonald, who could often be seen outside of Joe Kool's on Richmond Street, singing, reading poetry and giving out hugs to anyone who wanted one. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Many people told stories of how McDonald would find out what someone was interested in, then introduce them to someone else who had a similar interest, often in a strange place in the wee hours of the morning. 

"I met everyone at [the grocery store] at three o'clock in the morning," said his cousin Julie McDonald, who often gave him a ride to the 24 hour Metro grocery store.

"The floor cleaner, the cashiers, everyone who was at the Metro," she said. 

Difficult to find

Mourners sign Roy McDonald's casket just before it's loaded onto a hearse at O'Neil Funeral Home in downtown London, Friday. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Roy McDonald was often seen around town carrying bags crammed full of books and papers, which he often read aloud to anyone who would listen. 

He also didn't own a phone, didn't have a job and didn't keep regular hours, which made him difficult to find, said James Reaney, a former reporter for a local newspaper. 

Reaney said while finding McDonald was difficult, it was always memorable and he often gave people a token to remember him by. 

"These are tiny stones he gave to many people, he said, as a keepsake or a talisman of their meeting and here is mine as we remember Roy," he said holding up a tiny piece of smoothed glass.

About a hundred people gathered at London's O'Neil Funeral Home in the city's downtown to share songs, memories and a few laughs about Roy McDonald. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca