Joe of love | 

Big Willy Collins' widow delighted Joe Dolan's family approve of grave jukebox tribute

Kathleen recently posed for photographs with Joe Dolan's monument at the square in Mullingar with her husband's mass card in the statue's hand.

Kathleen poses with Joe Dolan's statue

Eamon Dillon

The widow of 'King of Sheffield' Big Willy Collins said the family is thrilled to know Joe Dolan's brother is happy the singer's memory is being kept alive at her husband's stunning grave memorial.

Kathleen Collins told the Sunday World that her husband and their family "idolised" the Westmeath singer.

The huge marble memorial at Shiregreen Cemetery in Sheffield includes a solar powered juke box with a CD of Joe Dolan's music for people to listen to as they pay their respects.

Kathleen recently posed for photographs with Joe Dolan's monument at the square in Mullingar with her husband's mass card in the statue's hand.

They also left tributes at Joe's grave.

"Me and my husband and children idolised Joe. He used to play him to me when we were courting," she said.

"We were back in Ireland a few weeks ago, first time my children visited Ireland. We went and got flowers made for Joe's grave and we left my husband's Mass card there."

Willy Collins' family with the Joe Dolan statue

Earlier this week Ben Dolan told the Sunday World's Eddie Rowley: "It's amazing the connection my brother Joe made in life with people across the board through his music, and he's still part of their families and their lives long after he's gone."

The 86-year-old, who is still performing his brother's music, said he is delighted that Joe's music is "bringing back happy memories for them and giving them some comfort after their sad loss."

The incredible solar-powered jukebox with Joe Dolan pride of place

"I hear stories all the time about Joe's song, Goodbye Venice Goodbye, being played at funerals as the coffin is leaving the church.

"It was also played at the cathedral in Mullingar as Joe's own coffin was carried from the church back in 2007," he said.

At Dolan's pub in Mullingar

"For us, it's lovely to see Joe living on through his music, to hear how much he meant to people, to learn how they are still playing his music in memory of their loved ones."

Big Willy Collins' lavish grave memorial created headlines around the world as a video of the giant structure went viral.

Mr Collins has been immortalised in a lifelike statue at his graveside

The 37-tonne headstone - described as "the largest in Britain" - reportedly cost at least €200,000.

The huge marble memorial features two life-sized statues of Big Willy's six-foot frame, has LED lights that change colour, depictions of Jesus Christ, biblical scenes and is surrounded by Irish flags.

Big Willy Collins' tombstone

It has a permanent CCTV link, to which his family have access to allow them to see and speak to Big Willy whenever they want.

The headstone took two weeks to fit on the large plot the family have at the cemetery.

The memorial features a the solar-powered jukebox playing the late father-of-nine's favourite tracks.

However, the memorial also attracted controversy this week as council bosses say that it was constructed without approval.

Cllr Alison Teal, Executive Member for Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Wellbeing, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield Council said: "This memorial was built without permission, and we are currently considering our next steps."

The 'King of Sheffield', bare-knuckle boxer, Big Willie Collins.

Cllr Teal said that the grave may be in violation of planning laws that dictate the size and dimensions of burial grounds.

Members of the family visit Shiregreen every day where other relatives of Big Willy are also interred, as are members of Kathleen's family.

Originally born in Athlone, and one of 16 children, Collins left Ireland with his family for the UK where Sheffield eventually became his home.

The bare-knuckle boxer died suddenly at the age of 49 in Mallorca, after collapsing while on holiday with his family in July 2020.

His funeral in August 2020 was an equally lavish affair that saw a procession of 50 Rolls Royces, a 12 horse-drawn carriage, hundreds of motorbikes and an American-style truck.

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