Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Alex Higgins: Ballad for the People’s Champion plays again

The Ballad of Hurricane Higgins by Bobbie Hanvey

It first rang out across the airwaves 28 years ago, just after Alex Higgins won the Snooker World Championship for the second time in 1982.

And now The Ballad of Hurricane Higgins, written and sung by Downtown Radio’s Ramblin’ Man Bobbie Hanvey, is set to be a hit all over again when it is re-released by Emerald Records in 10 days’ time.

With lyrics that perfectly capture the drama, tension and romance of that unforgettable night at the Crucible on May 16, 28 years ago, the song heralds Alex as “our greatest pride and joy”.

And it goes on: “Now Hurricane Higgins potted hard, and he sunk them fast and true, he played for his baby Lauren, and he fought with a lightning cue.”

Speaking last night, renowned photographer, musician, author and broadcaster Hanvey said the song was — and still is — a fitting tribute to the legendary sportsman.

“Alex came along at the height of the Troubles, at a time when every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland feared they were going to be shot or blown up,” he said.

“He was a breath of fresh air to everyone. He gave us something else to think about and to be proud of.

“Just to watch him at the table was a dream.

“Personally, I had no time for snooker before or after Alex, but when he was on the scene I wouldn’t have missed a frame. And he was beautiful; he appealed to both men and women. He went round the table like a butterfly, the other players were like elephants.”

Though Bobbie never met Alex Higgins, he was a very close friend of the late Billy Mills, who became one of the sports star’s closest friends.

Bobbie explained: “I nursed with Billy in the Downshire Hospital in Downpatrick, and Billy, who was from the Botanic area of Belfast, used to travel to matches with Alex.

“He got to know him very well and idolised him. Indeed, Billy started dressing like Alex and even picked up some of his mannerisms.

“And when he talked about him, it was with a real affection.”

As for those who have been critical of Alex, Bobbie added: “Human nature being what it is you always got people who wanted to put him down.

“But investigate their lives and you’ll find they’re the biggest reprobates of all.”

George Doherty, who co-owns Emerald Records with Martin McBurney, says The Ballad of Hurricane Higgins is a fitting memento to one of Northern Ireland’s greatest heroes.

“This is something that people will be able to hold on to once the funeral is over,” he said.

“Since his death I’ve been offered some songs about Alex but they are rather sad and downbeat.

“This is a great little tune, with none other than Arty McGlynn playing guitar on it.

“It captures the People’s Champion when he was at the height of his powers and is a real celebration of Alex!”

The Ballad of Hurricane Higgins will be on sale at HMV in Belfast from August 9.

It can also be downloaded from emeraldmusiconline.com and amazon.co.uk.

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