Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

'Alex Higgins is my father and I love him’

In a rare interview, which first appeared ahead of an RTE television documentary about her father, Lauren Higgins tells of growing up in the shadow of the ‘People’s Champion’

Lauren Higgins, daughter of Alex Higgins
Lauren Higgins, daughter of Alex Higgins
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 'Hurricane' Higgins, 1949-2010

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.
Snooker legend Alex Higgins. 2010
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
x
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.

“The way my mum looks at it is this: my parents have two children together, me and Jordan. Obviously mum was attracted to dad. They got on. For seven years there weren’t any children keeping them together.

“He was a character and I think my mum gets upset about how he is now.”

Did her mum ever remarry? “No. I think dad put her off!”

He was the ‘People’s Champion’ and Lauren Higgins is in Dublin to talk about her famous father, who is the subject of Kevin Burns’ documentary in the RTE True Lives series.

Lauren was the most famous baby in the world when Alex insisted on having her in his arms to celebrate regaining his world snooker title in 1982. The marriage went downhill soon after and Lauren, now 25 and working in the legal department of an insurance company in Manchester, and Jordan (22), a fitness instructor, still live with their mother.

“Jordan is very good at sports. He goes to the snooker club.

“He looks like my dad, has all the expressions — he’s like a younger version,” she says. As Lauren was growing up, Alex was one of the most famous faces in these islands. And not always for the best reasons. Sometimes it was the snooker wins; sometimes it was the tabloids.

It may not all have been true but, with Alex, plenty of it was. Headbutting a snooker official. Jumping out of windows. Getting stabbed by a woman friend. Alex was a tabloid godsend.

“Any child who has a father that is famous knows that you do get stick at school. But when he has been drunk and it is in the papers, children can be cruel. I remember going to a birthday party and everyone asking for autographs and when you are little you don’t understand. When I was a teenager I remember watching TV thinking, ‘please don’t show me up. Please don’t embarrass me’.”

There were children of other famous people in Lauren’s school in Manchester. Some had fathers on the United team. Others were on Coronation Street. But Alex’s fame eclipsed them all. And as such an individual character he was an obvious target for the TV impressionists. “I used to hate Bobby Davro. He used to do the sniffing. We all know my dad does that. He’s my dad and at the end of the day I love him.”

Love him, yes, but there were times it was better if people did not know who she was.

“When I was at university there was a girl who was from Belfast and she said: ‘Lauren Higgins? Alex Higgins’ daughter is called Lauren’. I just said: ‘Is she?’ I just don’t tell anybody I am his daughter.”

For a time Lauren was angry with him: “He is off in his own world. Then ... I realised that is the way he is.”

Now she is immensely proud of her father and believes that if it wasn’t for alcohol, he would still be a force in world snooker.

“I’m not saying that my dad is an angel, but he was the People’s Champion. He should be celebrated for what he did. He came from nowhere — then he has a Rolls Royce ... and he couldn’t drive.”

This article first appeared in the Sunday Independent in 2005

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