Willy Collins memorial Sheffield: How spectacular monument was installed without full permission
The incredible memorial to Willy Collins, the patriarch of a traveller family, one of 16 siblings and a dad-of-nine, who was also a grandfather, featured two life-sized statues of the bare-knuckle boxer’s six-foot-two frame, four flagpoles, depictions of Jesus and biblical scenes. It also has a solar-powered jukebox playing his favourite tracks.
Mr Collins collapsed and died during a holiday with his family in Majorca in July 2020, and the monument in his honour is lit up by LED lights that change colour and is under 24-hour CCTV monitoring. A security firm also guards the memorial.
However, it was quickly condemned by Sheffield Council who said they had never given permission for the memorial to be installed. Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, sister paper The Star has revealed exactly how and why the structure was installed in the cemetery without permission.
Although some people approve and admire the monument, others say it is too big and claim to have been contacted by the council over much less serious cemetery guideline breaches. When it was first installed, there was a steady stream of intrigued visitors who went along to see the scale of the memorial for themselves.
The council is said to be in discussions with the Collins family over the size of the monument but nearly one year on it remains in place and continues to divide opinion. A council response to questions asked under the Freedom of Information Act reveals the authority was happy with sections of the monument to be installed but it was expected it to be kept at under 4ft 6ins in height.
The council claims it was told there were additions to the memorial later installed by a different, unnamed, mason to the one who they had originally been dealing with.
The FOI response said the first application for planning permission was rejected on account of the memorial being too high. The council said it was on account of structures which held two statues of Mr Collins.
It added: “Once the two objects had been removed from the application we then issued a permit for the memorial to be constructed on the graves owned by the family...At this point we were happy for the memorial to go ahead as the correct procedures had been applied and that the memorial would only have a maximum height of 4ft 6ins, cover a single row of five graves.
“Having spoken to the memorial mason regarding the construction they only erected what they had been given a permit to do. They took photographs of the completed work, they freely admitted that they supplied to an unnamed memorial mason the rest of the items on the grave that do not have SCC approval but did not fit them.”
Sheffield Council says it breaches size guidelines for city cemeteries but the Collins family insists planning permission was granted before the monument was installed.
The council says it is “still trying to achieve an agreed position with the Collins family over the future of the memorial”.
The Collins family has warned there will be “war” if the monument is damaged.