Mum of 17’s tragic death from drink

Maureen Collins
Maureen Collins
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A ‘REMARKABLE’ Sheffield matriarch – a mother of 17 and head of one of the city’s biggest traveller families – died with nearly four times the drink-driving limit in her body, an inquest heard.

Mary Philomena Collins, known to many as Maureen and to her massive family as ‘Big Mammy’, passed away last November.

The 66-year-old’s death at home on Pit Lane, Manor Top, was met with an outpouring of grief from her 16 surviving children, 144 grandchildren and more than 50 great-grandchildren.

Hundreds of mourners attended her spectacular funeral at St Catherine’s Roman Catholic Church in Burngreave last year.

Her death was a tragedy for the family, coming just two months after her husband Patrick passed away.

Now it has been revealed Mary died in the middle of the night, after a long history of drink and self-harm.

Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard paramedics were called to Pit Lane, where Mary lived with her fifth child Bridget, 43, at 3am on November 17.

They found her on the floor beside her bed and pronounced her dead at the scene.

Coroner Christopher Dorries, recording a verdict of death by natural causes, said a post-mortem examination revealed Mary died with 298mg of alcohol in her bloodstream – way above the safe driving limit of 80mg.

Mr Dorries said the medical cause of death was alcoholic liver disease and an enlarged heart ‘due to chronic alcohol abuse’.

He added: “Plainly the only possible verdict is one of death from natural causes.”

Although none of Mary’s large family attended the inquest, the coroner asked Det Sgt Rebecca Smith to pass on his condolences.

Mr Dorries said: “Mary Collins was a remarkable lady. She had 17 children and 144 grandchildren.”

The coroner said Mary was born in Galway, Ireland, in June 1944.

He added: “She had been in this country for many, many years and lived in Sheffield for a good long time.”

As well as being known as head of a famous Sheffield traveller family, Maureen had a fearsome reputation as a steely woman street boxer.

At her funeral last year her son Willie, 38, said: “She was the best fighting woman in England and Ireland and retired undefeated. Everyone among travelling people knew her.”