Ffordd Billy Collins, Ebbw Vale

Portrait of Billy Collins of Ebbw ValeThis road was named in 2024 after Billy Collins (1902-69), who lost his arms in an industrial accident when he was a boy. He went on to be a clerk and an inspirational entertainer.

William George Collins was born to John and Susannah Collins. John was a colliery timberman, working underground. In 1911 the family, including three sons and two daughters, lived in Harcourt Street.

It was common for children in industrial towns to have a few years of schooling and then start work in factories and mines, where there were many dangers. Billy worked at a brickworks in Ebbw Vale until his 14th birthday in 1916. On that day he was accidentally caught in machinery. Both of his arms had to be removed entirely.

He learned how to perform many manual tasks with other parts of his body, including painting with a brush in his mouth, playing the piano with his nose and buttoning his clothes using his toes. Audiences in music halls watched in amazement as “Billy the Armless Wonder” accomplished tasks they thought could be done only with fingers and arms.

In 1939 Billy was a brickworks clerk, living in Letchworth Road. Later he was a clerk at Ebbw Vale steelworks, where his tasks included opening letters and writing notes.

He visited and wrote to many other disabled people and inspired hope in them. They included victims of the Thalidomide drug and veterans who had been left disabled by the First World War and Second World War.

Ffordd Billy Collins was an unnamed road on the former steelworks site when Ciaran Mitchel-Neal, a pupil at Ysgol Pen-y-Cwm, began to research Billy’s story while on work experience at the Ebbw Vale Works Museum. Ciaran’s work resulted in Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council naming the road in Billy’s honour.

Postcode: NP23 6AA     View Location Map

Photo of Billy Collins painting a picture using his mouth to hold a brush Photo of Billy Collins playing a piano using his nose