THE extraordinary story of a Solihull Big Issue seller features in a multi-million pound exhibition about the rich history of the region.
Homeless Peter Dolan, who sold the magazine in Mell Square and the High Street, died from a heart attack two months ago, aged just 59.
But the Irishman’s remarkable tale, spanning continents, professions, and learning to cope with autism, features in the new exhibition – which opens at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery today (Friday).
It’s revealed that privately-educated Peter had degrees in French and Spanish, being fluent in both, and had lived in America, Canada, and Europe.
Though little is known of his early life, he had served in the US Navy, and worked on a boardwalk fairground in Coney Island, before coming to the UK and selling the magazine.
Fours years ago, he had taken a pitch in Birmingham, but moved to the borough after being threatened with a knife in 2010.
He was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, and died from a heart attack on August 6, during a visit to his parents’ graves in Dublin.
Tom Belte, who works for Big Issue in Birmingham, said that Peter was an “incredible and enigmatic” individual.
“I always looked at him as our very own ‘Forrest Gump’ in some respects,” he said.
“I asked him once if he would be interested in writing his life down, he decided against it for personal reasons, but I still think it would have been a great read and life story. He had a very mathematical brain, too. He was spotted at Waterstones in Solihull, reading a book about the theory of existential sociology... in French.”
Peter’s Big Issue jacket and an audio interview sit alongside displays on well-known figures such as industrialist Matthew Boulton and Mini designer, Sir Alec Issigonis
Find out more about ‘Birmingham, Its People, Its History’ at www.bmag.org.uk