London's 'Mayor of Richmond Row,' Roy McDonald, dead at 80

Online tributes continue to pour in for Roy McDonald, the street poet, author and philosopher who was a regular fixture in downtown London for decades.

Writer, poet, philosopher, McDonald was an iconic part of the city's downtown scene

Roy McDonald was a regular fixture on London's Richmond Row, where he liked to sing songs for money, recite poetry and engage passersby in conversation. (Richard Gilmore/Twitter)

Online tributes continue to pour in for Roy McDonald, a unique Londoner whose friendly manner and penchant for sharing music and poetry outside Joe Kool's earned him the unofficial title 'The Mayor of Richmond Row.'

McDonald, a philosopher and published poet, was found dead in his home. He was 80. 

McDonald was often seen singing songs, reading poetry or chatting with students outside of the bars on Richmond Street. 

He was known for his scraggly appearance and white beard, which at one time reached past his waist.

London playwright Jason Rip wrote a play about McDonald's life, entitled Beard: A Few Moments in the life of Roy McDonald.

"He's a very legendary figure," said Rip. "People had all kinds of misconceptions about him, like he had his money buried in the backyard and that he was a renegade professor. There was a lot of urban legends about Roy." 

In reality, Rip said, McDonald just loved to rub elbows with people on the streets. 

"He was extremely social," he said. "He really did like to talk to people. He was like the greeter for the City of London, since he introduced so many people to each other, always willing to have conversations with anyone who happens to meet him. I think that was his great gift to the city."

Rip said he would like to raise money to one day erect a bronze statue of McDonald at his usual spot on Richmond Street, between Joe Kool's and Toboggan. 

"I even talked to him about it when he was alive and he really liked that idea." 

Jeremy Hobbs is a local musician and longtime friend of McDonald. 

Hobbs said it's almost impossible to imagine a downtown London without McDonald walking (he walked everywhere) from one coffee shop to another, his bags bulging with reading material. 

"He was as rooted in the fabric of this city as the trees in Victoria Park," said Hobbs. 

Hobbs said McDonald's dishevelled appearance often caused people to mistakenly think he was homeless.

Friends of McDonald became concerned when he suddenly failed to show up as his usual haunts, which included downtown coffee shops and Covent Garden Market. Hobbs said it appears he had died in his sleep. 

"He was just a very kind, gentle soul," said Hobbs. "A sweet warm person who loved talking to people."

Tributes on social media

Below is a selection of some of the tributes people posted about Hobbs on social media Wednesday.

About the Author

Andrew Lupton

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Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.