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Speedo Mick lived up to his name as he turned up in Oban skimpily dressed for a Scottish spring.
The 56-year-old charity fundraiser caused quite the stir in his Everton swimming trunks, club scarf, New Balance trainers and trapper hat.
Having got off the ferry from Eriskay, intrigued female fans wanted selfies as generous donors stuffed notes into his hands.
Mick admitted the Outer Hebrides had been ‘absolutely freezing’ but the warmth of the reception he receives keeps any cold at bay.
Oban was his latest port of call on a mammoth five-month trek across the UK and Ireland – not bad for a bloke who said he wasn’t any good at sports in school.
With lockdown lifted, the founder of the Speedo Mick Foundation, is meeting local charities as he redistributes funds from a previous 1,000-mile charity trek taking in Land’s End to John O’Groats just before Covid struck.
With the pandemic meaning many charities have struggled to drum up money, its been Mick’s mission to go around and ‘give back’.
Mick said: ‘I’m in Oban because I’ve just done the Outer Hebrides. I started off in Stornoway and I’m doing a 2,000-mile Giving Back Tour finishing in Liverpool, but in between I will be doing five capital cities – Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Cardiff and London and giving a quarter of a million pounds back along the way – Covid-permitting.’
He added: ‘The reaction has been absolutely fantastic. They have come over, giving me £5 and £10 all smiling, all asking questions, all wanting to give us a hug and all wanting a photo.
‘We’ve all been locked down, and everyone’s looking for a little smile and I give them it – in me knickers!’
Indeed, one adoring admirer in Oban suggested the rear of his trunks should be emblazoned not with Everton, but the name of a certain North London football club!
The journey is all part of the ongoing turnaround in Mick’s life from a difficult childhood and troubled teenaged years. It led to homelessness, depression, addictions to drink and drugs, begging on the streets and suicide attempts.
But having finally plucked up the courage to ask for help in his mid-30s, he went on to swim the English Channel in 16 hours as a novice to raise money for a homeless charity, which is where the ‘Speedos’ idea took root.
The tag then stuck when he went to an Everton game, sneaked into the toilets at Goodison Park and emerged before the stunned stadium clad in only his ‘budgie smugglers’ to announce he was back from the brink.
It was the channel swim that made Mick believe in himself again. His message to people was: ‘Don’t give up and ask for help. I thought I knew all the answers but all my answers took me to homelessness, destitution and addiction.’
‘I had to learn to trust somebody else.’
Speedo Mick also got a big welcome in Taynuilt where he was given a bed for the night and food at the Taynuilt Inn – then received a great send-off as piper Emma Hill piped him on his way as he marched to Loch Awe.
Taynuilt Inn manager Jordan Foster said: ‘What a character Speedo Mick was, kept everyone smiling and laughing. We had £200 in cash donations we gave him from staff and locals in the village.’