Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

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

The Ballad of Hurricane Higgins by Bobbie Hanvey
The Ballad of Hurricane Higgins by Bobbie Hanvey
Snooker legend Alex Higgins. 2010
Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, 1949-2010
Former world champion Alex Higgins in action in 1994
Alex Hurricane Higgins
A book of condolence has been opened for former snooker world champion Alex Higgins
Former world champion Alex Higgins in action in 1994
Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins
05-01-1980. Confetti scatters at the wedding of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins and bride Lynn, at the United Reform church in Wilmslow.
05-01-1980. Confetti scatters at the wedding of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins and bride Lynn, at the United Reform church in Wilmslow.
21-04-1986, Alex Higgins enjoys a cigarette during a moment's break during the Embassy World Snooker Championship match against John Spencer in Sheffield.

Alex Higgins
'The Hurricane' played snooker with a style and verve never before seen and won the World Championship in 1972, beating John Spencer in the final and again in 1982. That latter triumph, against six-times champion Ray Reardon, is best remembered for Higgins' tears at the end as he cradled his baby daughter in his arms. Higgins' win over Jimmy White in the semi-final was regarded as one of the all time great matches, particularly the Belfast cueman's 69 break in the penultimate frame on the way to a 16-15 victory. The Hurricane is almost as well known for his off-the-table bust-ups and his many run-ins with snooker officialdom over the years. But despite his difficulties, he remains one of the most gifted players ever to pick up a cue, with Ronnie O'Sullivan the only current star worthy of a mention in the same breath.
Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins
This close-up picture of Alex Higgins taken by Ulster photographer Cathal McNaughton
Alex Higgins
ALEX HIGGINS Until the robotic Stephen Hendry turned up as a 21-year-old world snooker champion in 1990, Alex "Hurricane" Higgins had been the youngest ever winner of the title, when he beat John Spencer in the best-of-73-frames 1972 final. It was Higgins' first appearance at the tournament and his flamboyant style and break-neck speed around the table earned him the "Hurricane" sobriquet. It is a nickname that could just as easily have applied to his life away from the beize, although the notoriously sedate snooker arena also witnessed its fair share of storms. At the 1986 UK championships, Higgins was fined and disqualified for head-butting a referee. Four years later, after a first round defeat at The Crucible, Higgins punched a tournament official before going on to announce his retirement from the game.
Alex Higgins in 1999 at his friend Ollie Reed's funeral in County Cork
Alex Higgins pictured at a bar in Belfast
Alex 'Hurrican' Higgins
Alex 'Hurrican' Higgins.
Alex Higgins pictured at a bar in Belfast where he spoke about his his autobiography "Alex Higgins 'My Story' from the eye of the Hurricane".
Alex Higgins. 16/3/81.
Alex "Hurricane" Higgins pictured 19th April 1980.259/80
Alex Higgins. 10/5/85.
Former World Champion snooker star Alex Higgins enjoys a day out at the races despite fighting off the effects of throat cancer.
Alex Higgins pictured in the mid 1980's
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Alex Higgins considering his next shot during the 1983 World Snooker Championships in Sheffield.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Exhibition match at Waterfront. (19/06/1997)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Oliver Reed and Alex Higgins. (December 1992)
Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. (02/06/1993)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. A familiar sights for snooker fans... Irish professional champion Alex Higgins wiping his cue with a towel during last night's title match against Dennis Taylor in the Ulster Hall. Higgins won the first session 7-2 in the 41 frame decider which is being presented by the 'Belfast Telegraph' and Kearney Promotions. (03/02/1978)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Alex Higgins senior pictured with his son after Alex had regained the Smithwick's Irish Professional Snooker Championship in Maysfield Leisure Centre. Alex won the final against reigning champion Dennis Taylor by 16 frames to 11.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. World professional snooker champion Alex Higgins (right), who was in Belfast to-day for the wedding of his sister, Jean, of Abingdon Street to John Robson, Crumlin Road. The couple were married in St. Aidan's Parish Chursh, Blythe Street, Sandy Row, Belfast.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Four Ulster sportsmen were given Texaco Sportstars of the Year Awards (1982) at a banquet in Dublin last - John Watson, Barry McGuigan, Gerry Armstrong and Alex Higgins. Photographed at the ceremony were McGuigan, Northern Ireland team manager Billy Bingham, who collected the trophy on behalf of Armstrong and Higgins.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Alex Higgins, pictured with the championship trophy he intends to hold on to. (12/03/1983)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Snooker star Alex Higgins signs autographs for twins Brenda (left) and Geraldine Brammled at the press conference to announce the details of the Irish Professional Snooker Championship, which will be held in the Antrim Forum from February 9-12. (1988)
17-05-1982, World Snooker Champion, Alex Higgins is saluted by his baby daughter Lauren with his wife Lynne, after a nail-biting battle against six-times champion Ray Reardon at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.
13-04-1973, world professional snooker champion Alex Higgins shows off his new look, as created by Tom Gilbey.
Noel Cairns holds a shopping list given to him by former snooker champion Alex Higgins, near Ulidia House in south Belfast where Higgin's body was discovered.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Surrounded by beautiful girls, the lightning Alex. 'Hurricane' Higgins signs autographs for fans Jacqui McFerran, Marion Allen and Catherine McFerran. (15/04/80)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. World snooker champion Alexander 'Hurricane' Higgins in Belfast. (08/11/1976)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. (February 1978)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Exhibition match at Waterfront. (19/06/1997)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Exhibition match at Waterfront. (19/06/1997)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Exhibition match at Waterfront. (19/06/1997)
Former World Snooker Player Champion Alex "Hurricane" Higgins at his book signing in Easons 02.06.07.
Snooker legend Alex Higgins spotted Tallaght 2005.
Alex Higgins 4/3/82
Oliver Reid, Reg Presley & Alex Higgins
Snooker star Alex Higgins is taken to hospital with stab wounds after an incident involving a woman. 2008
25-7-2010Flowers for Alex Higgins are left at a muralon the Donegal Road to in honour of the snooker legend who died yesterday in Belfast.

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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