Tributes paid to former Big Issue seller in Norwich whose “personal struggle” is now over

Tributes have been paid to a former Big Issue seller in Norwich.

John Brough was a top businessman and Oxford graduate before alcohol dependency left him homeless and alone on the streets.

He came to Norwich 18 years ago and thanks to help from numerous friends, his partner, and with the help and support he received from Norcas – the open access drug and alcohol charity – he stopped drinking for a time and took control of his life.

But his years of alcoholism had affected his health, his liver was damaged and his memory was going, and he died of a heart attack, aged 55, at his home in Barnards Yard, off Coslany Street, Norwich, on August 7.

Trudy Johnson, who was his partner for 14 years, went on holiday with him to Kos about six weeks before he died and said they had a 'lovely time'.

She said: 'He was fun, humorous, and very generous.

'He was also kind and loving and very intelligent. He had a wide range of friends and got a lot of support from people. He had fantastic doctors.

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'When he was young he had been a very good sportsman.

'His great passion in life was horse racing.'

Journalist Ian Wylie, who knew John for more than 40 years and delivered the eulogy at his funeral, said they met at school and were best friends.

He said: 'John had a brilliant brain, an engaging smile and, best of all, a very well developed sense of humour.

'He sailed into a place at St Peter's College, Oxford with four A-levels and read modern history, later working in Edinburgh, Cheshire and London.

'He claims his eventual decision to move to Norwich was the result of putting a dart in a map.

'Whatever the truth of that, he was always pretty good at darts.

'We were all privileged to have met John and desperately hoped that he could somehow beat the cycle of addiction that would take him out of our lives and on to the streets – both during his life in Norwich and many times before.

'Five years ago John wrote a small piece for a Norwich church magazine about what he described as his 'personal struggle'.

'John said, 'The path has neither been straight nor narrow. But as well as much sadness there has been great joy along the way'.

'As a lifelong horse racing fan, John knew what it was to win – as well as to lose.

'And although we would all dearly love him still to be with us today, I hope there is some comfort for his many friends in the fact that, for John, his personal struggle is now at an end.'

John was born in Gateshead and grew up in Newcastle. After university he held top positions with Monsanto, a global farming corporation with offices in New York, Brussels and London and with Extel, a Fleet Street-based company that pioneered commentary services from racecourses to betting shops.

It was here that his heavy drinking set-in and he had three spells of detox at The Priory.

By the time he arrived in Norwich he had already spent time at a Salvation Army hostel and had lived as a homeless man on the streets of London.

But he found work with many different businesses in Norwich including Bertram Books and Norwich Union, now Aviva, and he started a relationship with Mrs Johnson, whom he met while selling the Big Issue.

His usual pitch was in London Street, near the Co-op bank, where he intermittently sold for nearly a decade.

He started a PGCE course at City College Norwich training to be a teacher, and also worked for Leap in Norwich,

He was also a regular worshipper at the United Reformed Church in Princes Street, Norwich, where his funeral was held on Monday, and once ran the Norwich half-marathon for Norcas.

Donations at the funeral were requested for Norcas, and/or the Injured Jockeys' Fund.

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