William Collins: Sheffield Council 'hoping to meet family soon' over giant headstone at Shiregreen Cemetery

Sheffield Council has made contact with William Collins’ family over the huge headstone at Shiregreen Cemetery and hopes to meet relatives soon.

The 37-tonne white marble memorial to the bare-knuckle boxer, better known as Big Willy Collins, made global headlines after being unveiled at Shiregreen Cemetery on March 17.

It includes two life-size statues of the traveller patriarch, four flagpoles, LED lights and even a working jukebox.

But it has proved controversial, with the council previously saying the plans which had been submitted and approved for the giant monument ‘differ from the memorial in place’.

A marble statue depicts Willy as he looked when he was bare knuckle fighting, at the Willy Collins memorial at Shiregreen Cemetery, Sheffield

Until now the council had said it was ‘reaching out’ to the family but had yet to receive a response.

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Yet this week, Lisa Firth, the council’s director of parks, leisure and libraries, said: “The council is in communication with Willy Collins’ family and we are hoping to be able to meet with them soon.

“There are continued discussions around the memorial but no specific date has been set for a decision.”

Willy Collins, who was known to many as Big Willy Collins, tragically died earlier after collapsing while on holiday with his family in Port de Pollença on the Spanish island of Majorca in July 2020.

The council confirmed it had received complaints regarding the headstone, with some people understood to believe it is out of keeping with other monuments in the cemetery.

Shiregreen and Brightside ward councillor Peter Price said last month that opinion appeared to be divided, based on the reactions from those he had spoken to.

He said some people wanted it removed but others enjoyed the publicity it had given the area, liked the monument and were happy for it to stay.

The Willy Collins memorial at Shregreen Cemetery

Hundreds of mourners from the traveller community attended his burial that August, with 30 horses trailing his 22-carat gold casket, which was delivered on a monster truck and carried to the cemetery in a horse-drawn carriage.

Known by some as the ‘King of Sheffield’, Mr Collins moved to Sheffield as a boy in 1980 and grew up in Pitsmoor before settling in Darnall. He was a dad of nine and had around 400 nieces and nephews.

His widow, Kathleen Collins, previously told the Daily Mail there would be ‘war’ if the memorial was damaged or taken down.