Radio broadcaster David Collins was farewelled on Wednesday by those who knew the man best and described him as kind, spirited, generous, affectionate, intelligent and humorous.
About 150 mourners filled the Pettigrew Family Funerals chapel at Belmont to remember the life of Mr Collins, who died at age 60.
The former Newcastle radio host passed away on Monday after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Mr Collins’ sister, Amanda, close friends who considered the British expat a family member, long-held associates and former co-workers who had been a part of his life were all in attendance.
David Gubbay from the Newcastle Hebrew Congregation led the service, which partly followed Jewish tradition.
Mr Gubbay spoke of the life of Collins, who was born in London, England on August 23, 1957.
He spoke of Collins’ life-changing decision to leave the United Kingdom at 19 years of age to pursue a career in Australia.
“He determined there were more opportunities in commercial radio in this country than there were in radio in his country,” Mr Gubbay said.
That decision to migrate to Australia set up a long career in the radio industry – a large majority of which was spent in Newcastle – and helped forge many of Collins’ closest friendships and ties.
Of perhaps the closest was working partner of more than two decades and best friend, Tanya Wilks.
“Over the last few days I’ve seen thousands of tributes, texts and tweets describing him [Collins] with words such as meticulous, warm, complex, witty, kind and intelligent,” Wilks said.
“Some words were less than complimentary, like uncompromising, misunderstood, hard-nosed, and even god forbid, pommy.
“But all of these words, the flattering and the not so, describe my friend and he would have loved it.
“But as my friend I can add so many more, such as: gutsy – not with courage, but as we know, with food; generous to a fault with his friends and the guide dogs charity of Australia, who enjoyed generous donations for decades; fiercely loyal; frighteningly protective and bursting with love and pride for Lorcan, his godson.
“If I had to chose one word to describe David, I renege and choose two … I would call him a bastard, because he’s left me way too soon.
“The second word I would choose is love, it isn’t particularly creative but it is what our relationship was: 100 per cent unconditional, got-your-back-sister, death won’t do us part love.
“But it wasn’t always that way.”
Wilks spoke of the start of their on-air radio career together as an untried double act at 2HD in 1991.
She joked Collins had arrived to take over the Newcastle station as a “Sydney blow-in” with a “sports car” and “gold chains”. He was her program director and she initially resigned from the station as she “couldn’t stand him”.
Collins responded by offering her a role on the breakfast radio program “over fish and chips at the Hexham bowlo because he thought fireworks between us would make for good radio”.
It certainly did, as in their first ratings survey together, the pair made No. 1 in the breakfast timeslot. They kept the No.1 rating for eight straight years, Wilks said.
After a short break and change of station, Collins and Wilks went on to become the longest-running breakfast radio team in Australia.
The pair spent 22 years on air together; eight at 2HD and another 14 at KOFM.
The David and Tanya show finished running in November, 2013. But the duo’s close friendship did not. Collins was close with Wilks’ family and Wilks’ son, Lorcan Redmond, was his godson.
Lorcan, 18, spoke warmly of his relationship with Collins, referring to him as “Beep Beep”. Collins himself, loved giving people nicknames.
“As far as I’m concerned he was just as much a Remond, as he was a Collins,” Lorcan said. “Beep Beep was there for me the day I was born and I was there for his final looming hours.
“But that isn’t really what matters at all, it’s what happened within the chapters between, that myself and everyone else here, will cherish forever. Duty, decency, reliability, honour, dignity, respect – these are all qualities that Beep Beep not only held in high esteem, but practiced every day.”
Collins was described by Lorcan as “a man who will be remembered for never being afraid to show his opinions, never kept people waiting and always, without a doubt, gave you a hard knock on the teeth if your standard was not up to his”.
“On the contrary, he had a soft and loving side that not many people got to know,” Lorcan said. “His public life was public and his private life was very private.”
Lorcan said Collins could “never resist the opportunity to have a laugh” with friends.
He recalled a story from his youth when Collins, a fanatical Arsenal Football Club supporter who often bought Lorcan the new season jersey, scarf or hat, had taught him to say “Thierry Henry” when Collins regularly asked “what’s god’s real name?”.
The response was then repeated on Lorcan’s first day at a Christian school.
“The principal wasn’t too happy, a few meetings had to be called and a few questions had to be asked,” Lorcan said. “We all know who got the biggest laugh out of that.”
A talented and developing elite athlete, Lorcan’s sporting endeavors were of great pride to Collins, who would regularly keep his good mate, Peter Sterling, aware of them.
“Lorcan is David’s godson,” Sterling said. “But more than that, he is the son that David never had. I was kept up to date almost daily.”
Sterling, who met Collins when the radio host was working at Sydney station 2WS in the mid-1980s, said they had been friends “the best part of 35 years”.
“We warmed to each other straight away,” Sterling said.
“So much so that it wasn’t too long before he became my manager.
“Although it was never a business-like relationship. Over three decades we never shared a cross word.”
Sterling said the pair shared a keen interest in English football and sport. A veteran broadcaster himself, Sterling heaped praise on Collins’ media career.
“David was an outstanding broadcaster,” he said.
“A result of natural talent, thorough professionalism and, more than anything, being a perfectionist.
“He was successful wherever he worked and if he didn’t start out as number one, he would soon make sure that would be the case.”
Another old friend from Collins’ years living in Sydney, Charles Ovadia, spoke of Collins’ knack for communication and broadcasting.
“He was a very smart man, was witty, head an evil sense of humour, he could be mischievous to a fault, he loved food, he loved friends, he loved to have a laugh, he loved to have a gamble and he loved a good discount.”
Mr Ovadia said he met Collins through his car dealership, which advertised through 2WS. When the station began outside broadcasts, Mr Ovadia’s business was the first to book a month’s worth of broadcasts.
“They would come on a Saturday and Sunday for four hours each and we would get some live reads to try and get some [customers],” he said.
“The first Saturday that the OB van came out, David was the announcer. Every 20 minutes we got a commercial read live on the air. He did the first couple and I walked in and said, ‘David, I think we can do it better’. He said, ‘why?’. I said, ‘You should ramp it up a little bit, try to get people excited about coming here, have a bit of fun’. He said, ‘I can do that, but it’s going to cost you’. I said, ‘what?’. He said, ‘I need new tyres’.”
Mr Ovadia said Collins did ramp it up and the dealership had “the best four weekends we had ever experienced in car sales, ever”. He also said 2WS did all right as after the second weekend the outside broadcast was booked out for the next seven months.
Collins’ sister, Amanda, remembered his early life and said his inquisitive nature, humour and love of sport were there at a young age.
“Growing up with David was always fun and games,” she said. “He took to the role of big brother and dutifully kept it going for 55 years.
“He trained me to learn all the Arsenal football team when I was six. When guests came over, he would make me recite all the players, in order, with their positions.”
She spoke of Collins’ musical talent as a piano player, saying how “he could just hear a song, and sit down and play it by ear”.
“He learned the entire map of the London underground when he was 12,” she said. “My mum would pack him a lunch and he would ride the train all day. Making sure he stopped at every station. You could ask him what station was on what line, his memory was astounding.”
Amanda said she was proud of the “special niche” her brother “carved in morning radio” and said they were his happiest times.
“He built a life filled with the most incredible friends who became his family,” she said. “And that is a testament to who he is.”