‘Beautiful’ mural honours legendary Leith homeless man now living in a care home

A much-loved homeless man has been honoured with a new mural on Arthur Street in Leith.
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Arthur Williams, originally from the Seychelles, lived on the streets in Leith Walk for 25 years before being admitted to a care home in 2013.

Shona Hardie, the local artist behind the artwork, said she was first contacted by Mr William’s niece during lockdown, who was keen to create a mural to raise awareness of mental health issues and homelessness.

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She added that Mr Williams, now 82, had an “incredible story” and was being well-looked after in care.

A new mural by artist Shona Hardie of Arthur, a popular homeless figure in Leith, has appeared on a street off Leith Walk.A new mural by artist Shona Hardie of Arthur, a popular homeless figure in Leith, has appeared on a street off Leith Walk.
A new mural by artist Shona Hardie of Arthur, a popular homeless figure in Leith, has appeared on a street off Leith Walk.

Ms Hardie thanked Casa Amiga, the cafe on whose side wall the mural is painted, as well as the “hundreds of folk who stopped to tell me such lovely and inspiring stories about Arthur” while she worked on it.

“He is indeed a much loved man around Leith still,” she added.

In a statement, Mr Williams’ family thanked Ms Hardie, and said they hoped the mural “will honour his legacy and bring some much needed cheer, in these dark days, to the people of Leith and all who see it.”

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In a tribute to Mr Williams, a JustGiving fundraiser launched by Streetwork to help people with mental health problems who are sleeping rough in Edinburgh has already topped £1,200.

Richard Roncero, manager of Steps to Hope, a nonprofit charity based in Edinburgh to aid and support the homeless, said the ‘beautiful mural’ was a great way to commemorate the Leith legend and to raise awareness of issues around homelessness.

“It is such a beautiful mural and the team here are quite passionate about raising awareness for rough sleepers so it’s gone down very well,” Richard said.

"The mural is great because it does raise awareness and acts as a reminder also that the community cared for the guy and that’s what we need to tackle homelessness - it’s community, it’s love, it’s togetherness.”

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Richard, who used to be homeless himself, added: "It is amazing to see how a man who spent so many years on the streets of Edinburgh has touched so many people.

“Arthur was a staple of the community. He was just a huge figure for years and years.

“He was looked after by the Leith community," he explained, “It was so humbling to see the people of leith bringing Arthur a sandwich or a couple of quid.

"He was never looked down on," Richard said, "The traditional taboo for a homeless person is people don't want to engage but that certainly wasn't the case for Arthur."

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Since lockdown, Richard said homeless people like Arthur need more help than ever.

He said the charity has been ‘non stop’ with volunteers out five days a week serving a minimum of hundred homeless people hot food per night.

“Before the pandemic we were only doing two nights a week but as all the food provision closed overnight we went from working two days a week to seven days a week and we’ve been so busy since then.”

Learn more about Steps to Hope here.

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