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21 August 2019

Cyril

When I was born, the doctor came out and told my parents: “Mr and Mrs W, your son is dead.” But then the nurse came out, and announced, “Mr and Mrs W, you’ve got a fine young baby boy!” My parents were devastated, then elated. The doctor shouldn’t have done what he done.

I am the baby of the family. Five boys, including me, and one girl. I was never home as a kid, always out having a ball with everybody, seeing this, seeing that.

My mum, she passed away when I was 17, my dad passed away when I was 39. My brothers and sisters, we all split up; they went this way, that way, and every other way.

I was a bit of a joker at school in Melbourne. I left when I was 17, after Form 3. I said, I’ve had enough, go out and get a job. My first job was working at Dunlop Tyres as a tyre fitter, changing tyres, having fun.

A bloke came in, he had a puncture on his truck. He told me there were jobs going at the stables. Horses are the best thing... When I was a little youngster, I used to go horse-riding down by the river with my mates. So I was a jockey there for a while, riding. I went to school and everything like that, learned all about horses.

After that I was making filing cabinets and lockers for 12 months. Then I was working at the Victorian Railways for nine years. Later, I worked in the cellars and mowed lawns for people.

I’m a pretty happy, fun-loving type of guy. I used to go ballroom dancing way before I had my knee issues – I had a pushbike accident. And I played golf, but I’ve given it away for a while now.

Now I go up the Footscray Club, spend time with the boys, have a lime and soda water. I don’t drink any more. I hadn’t been working for a long time, and I was on the pension. I started talking to Russell about it at the club, and he said, “Why don’t you start selling The Big Issue?” And now I’ve been selling The Big Issue on and off since 2015.

I had some time out after my accident. The pain in my knee wouldn’t go away, and I accidentally overdosed on Panadol tablets. My stomach “burst”. I was rushed into intensive care and had a stoma bag for a little bit. Oh shemozzle! I am alright now.

I’m back working. I enjoy it, you know. You meet people, good company. I like working outside. I have a ball, have fun.

Photo by James Braund

Interview by Amy Hetherington
Cyril sells The Big Issue in Footscray and Seddon, Melbourne.