Terminally ill Bristol man starts selling The Big Issue instead of ‘shrivelling up and waiting to die’
When Dave was 17 years old when he was one of 37 survivors in the 1973 Basel air disaster.
A terminally ill air crash hero given just weeks to live has started selling The Big Issue with his two sons - to help support them when he’s gone.
Dave Besley, 67, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia at the end of 2021, with doctors giving him just six months to live. But he decided to become a Big Issue vendor alongside sons Mark Besley, 32, and Shane Besley, 29, in his final months.
Dave, from Bristol, took up the job last month and said it has given him something to fight for. Mr Besley survived the Basel air disaster in 1973, managing to save seven others from the wreckage and was awarded for his heroism. He hopes the job selling the mag will be an outlet for his sons after he has died and help provide for them.
He said: “I wanted to come back to my family in Bristol because I have got my wife and my two disabled boys living here. I decided on the Big Issue so we can actually get out there and meet people, talk to people and get some money for the rest of their life when I’m gone.
“I decided I wanted to do something instead of sitting on the settee shrivelling up and waiting to die. It was an outlet for me to carry on with something and to have something to fight for. This magazine doesn’t only help homeless people and people with no money.
“It’s for people like me who’ve got disabilities so they can be a part of the community, not just living quietly in a corner. It’s been very good so far. There are nice people out there, the public is very supportive. They’re very outgoing, they want to know how you are, how you’re coping and what’s going on.
“I try to explain what the Big Issue is and that it’s a hand up – everybody has their own reasons for selling. For some people it’s just for money. For some it’s something to do. For some it’s just to hang on in life.”
He hopes selling the magazine will provide an income and a way to meet people for his sons, who both have learning and behavioural difficulties, once he has passed away.
He said: “I’ve been looking after my two boys most of my life and I’ve got them selling their magazines out there. They’re learning to cope with other people, they’re not very good at mixing in and connecting to people. The magazine has given them an outlet.
“They can’t work so all their life they would be stuck in the house or doing nothing. It’s an outlet for when I’m gone so they’ve got something to hang on to and something they can do without being tied down too much.”
When Dave was 17 years old when he was one of 37 survivors in the 1973 Basel air disaster. The ill-fated flight took off from Bristol Airport with 145 people onboard before crashing in the snow in Basel, Switzerland, on April 10, killing 108 people. He lost his uncle in the disaster but managed to save seven others from the wreckage, for which he was later awarded for his bravery.
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the disaster and he is now hoping he will be able to live to mark the occasion.
He said: “That’s what I’m fighting for. There are only a couple of survivors left and I want to be there to pay my respects to the survivors in Switzerland and the people in England. I always felt that I should have been with the rest of them on the plane when they passed so I have a heavy connection with Bristol.
“You don’t realise what it’s like until you’re in one of these air disasters. You still see it every year. You can hear the crying, you can hear the plane roar, you see every little bit.”
Chris Falchi-Stead, Frontline Director of The Big Issue, said: “Dave’s story is truly inspirational and our Frontline team will remain with him and his sons every step of the way in order to support him in every way we can. It’s incredibly tough out there for our vendors at the moment.
“The rising costs of food and energy and quieter high streets along with the colder climes are meaning a usually busy time for magazine vendors look increasingly bleak. Which is why we are urging people to give our vendors a fighting chance this Christmas and buy a magazine or a subscription from them.
“Every copy bought is £2 earned. Give our vendors a fighting chance this Christmas. Every copy counts.”
To support visit - www.bigissue.com/Christmas