Tributes to Sheffield ‘legend’, who brought joy by handing out conkers, paper planes and chocolates

Sheffield is mourning the loss of a local ‘legend’ who brought joy to many by handing out conkers, paper planes and chocolates.

Sunday, 17th February 2019, 6:31 am
Updated Sunday, 17th February 2019, 6:47 am
Walter Holland

Walter Holland is fondly remembered around Hillsborough, Wadsley and Wisewood as a ‘gentle soul’ with a ‘heart of gold’, whose innocent generosity knew no bounds.

He sadly died on Thursday, aged 93, following a short illness, and a campaign has been launched to get a conker tree planted in his honour.

Walter Holland

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Tributes to Walter have flooded in since his niece Joan Allen shared the news, describing him as a ‘lovely, kind man’ who ‘will be sadly missed’.

Rachel Hall, who first encountered Walter many years ago when she was a schoolgirl aged seven or eight, told how he had been a hugely popular figure in the community.

She said he always had a shopping bag full of sweets and chocolates, which he would hand out, except in the autumn when it was full of ready-strung conkers.

When she was older and had children of her own, she added, he gave them origami birds, while other people recalled him distributing paper planes.

“I’m glad our ‘Walter’ had us ‘kids’ and the S6 community to keep an eye out for him - he truly was a legend,” she said.

“RIP Walter - you will be missed by generations and not many people can have that said of them. A gent of S6 and a gentle soul.”

Walter is particularly fondly remembered by former pupils of Wisewood School, who Ms Hall said had presented him with a school tie which he wore all the time.

Walter’s niece Joan told how he had been born on Rockingham Street in Sheffield city centre and was the last of 12 siblings to die.

She said he sustained a nasty head injury when he was just three and subsequently contracted meningitis, leaving him with severe learning disabilities.

He lived at the old Middlewood Hospital, where he worked in the bakery for many years, and when that closed he stayed at various care homes in the area.

“It’s been quite overwhelming seeing all the lovely messages on Facebook. I didn’t realise quite how many people had been touched by Walter’s kindness over the years,” said Joan.

“He had the mental age of a three to five-year-old, which I think is why he identified so well with children.

“He had some really nice carers who looked after him over the years, and I’d particularly like to thank them for everything they did for him.”

Clare Tobin, the landlady at The Wadsley Jack pub, where Walter was a regular, said: "He was a lovely man and everyone knew him. He used to love taking photos with people.

"He would come every Friday for his burger and every Saturday for his fish and chips. We never charged him, and people would buy him lemonade and cigarettes."

Scores of tributes have been left on the ‘Wisewoodians’ and ‘Anyone remember Walter??’ Facebook groups.

Andrew Jowle called him a ‘real gentleman’, Sue Carter described him as a ‘lovely, kind and caring man’, and Suzanne Beaumount said he was ‘very much in my happy childhood memories of playing in Hillsborough Park’.

Rachel Noble wrote: “He was a true S6 legend. Everybody, no matter what age they were, knew him and loved him. He was part of our growing up that will be remembered forever.”

James Preston commented: “Lovely man, heart of gold, gentle soul! So much a part of all our childhoods. Much respect is owed to you Walter.”

And Laura Jayne said: “He was such a lovely man who gave so many people happy memories.”