You may have been following, or perhaps even shared our appeal to find the original owner of this amazing LFC coat in the collections of the Museum of Liverpool. The coat was one of thousands of special tributes left at Anfield following the Hillsborough disaster, 15 April 1989. After a few false starts, I am delighted to say that we have found the owner! The proud fan was John Collins, originally from Norris Green, now St Helens.
John, now 62, acquired the coat in 1981 when he worked at Jacobs Biscuits, Long Lane, aged 23. His mate, Kenny, who was a charge hand at the factory got the supervisor’s coat for him to decorate and wear at the upcoming European Cup final against Real Madrid, 27 May, in Paris. John decorated the coat, starting with the Liver Bird on the back. He then asked his friend from school days, Robbie Savage (who was on Liverpool’s books at the time) to take it in to Melwood, LFC’s training ground to get the players to sign it. His mum, sister and then-wife pitched in to help embroider it.
He went to the final in Paris with three work mates from Jacobs. It took them four long days to get there. On the journey they gave a hitchhiking Liverpool fan a lift who luckily knew the way! John was spotted, photographed and interviewed outside of the stadium. After the 1-0 win he arrived back in Liverpool still wearing the coat. When he heard a group of lads in the street say, “That’s that coat on the front page of the Echo!” it was the first time that he knew he had been in the paper.
Eight years later, and still a massive Red, John went to the fateful semi-final match at Hillsborough, 15 April 1989. He travelled to Sheffield with four mates. He was in the Leppings Lane end with his friend Keith Jones. They surged along with the crowd as usual, but were soon aware that something was terribly wrong. They managed to make their way into the corner of the pen away from the worst affected areas and later helped to carry the injured. Soon after he returned home he took his treasured coat from his bedroom, went to Anfield, which had been opened for a week to allow people to grieve, and left it on the Kop. He went on to work at Anfield that week, and then became a steward in the moat in front of the Kop for five years.
The coat, along with other item such as scarves, pennants and hats, were very kindly donated to the Museum by the LFC Supporters Club to help commemorate the tragedy. It is amazing to finally know the story behind such an important object in our collections, one I have known for many years, and to be able to share it.
Thank you to everyone for sharing the appeal, for suggesting who the owner may be, and of course, extra special thanks to John for sharing such an emotional story.
Read my original article on how our collections help to remember and reflect upon Hillsborough.