Willy Collins: Controversial ‘King of Sheffield’ giant headstone remains in place

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The 37-ton installation, made from Italian marble and believed to have cost tens of thousands of dollars, was unveiled at Shiregreen Cemetery in March.

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It marks the final resting place of 49-year-old Willy Collins, known to many as ‘Big Willy’ Collins, who died in July 2020 after collapsing while vacationing with his family in Port de Pollenca in Mallorca.

A memorial for Willy Collins was unveiled at Shiregreen Cemetery in March (Picture: Scott Merrylees)

The father-of-nine’s headstone became something of a new town landmark when it was unveiled, attracting a steady stream of visitors.

It includes two life-size statues of the bare-knuckle boxer’s six-foot-two frame, four flagpoles, depictions of Jesus Christ, and biblical scenes.

A 37-tonne memorial to Willy Collins, known as the ‘King of Sheffield’, has divided opinion (Picture: Scott Merrylees)

It also has a solar-powered jukebox playing the patriarch’s favorite tunes.

The monument is illuminated with color-changing LED lights and is under 24-hour CCTV surveillance.

At the time of the unveiling, Willy’s eldest daughter, Mary Collins, said: “It’s a sad day but it’s also a way to show the world what he meant to us.

“Our father was a family man and he means the world to us – he still means the world to us. We gave him everything we had and he deserves it.

One of 16 children, Willy, who hailed from a traveling family in Ireland and moved to Sheffield as a child, was the patriarch of the Collins family and had around 400 nieces and nephews.

Sheffield Council said all plans for funeral memorials should be submitted to council and receive approval from bereavement services before they are erected.

The board also has strict size guidelines.

She claims that the plans submitted and approved “differ from the memorial in place”.

The council says it has “reached out to the family” and intends to “discuss any changes that need to be made in order to meet cemetery rules and take other cemetery users into consideration”.

Willy’s widow, Kathleen Collins, told the Daily Mail there would be a “war” if the memorial was damaged or demolished.

“It will cause very, very bad riots if they remove my husband’s headstone. I warn the public and the council, do not touch the magnificent monument we have erected in memory of my dear Willy, ”she said.

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