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Alex Higgins: Last poignant journey through Belfast

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 31/07/2010

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.
A book of condolence has been opened for former snooker world champion Alex Higgins
Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins
Snooker legend Alex Higgins. 2010
Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, 1949-2010
Former world champion Alex Higgins in action in 1994
Alex Hurricane Higgins
Former world champion Alex Higgins in action in 1994
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
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.

Snooker legend Alex Higgins will make a poignant last journey through the centre of Belfast before a funeral service which will celebrate his life as the ‘People’s Champion’.

The cortege will make a two-mile procession along the streets of the Hurricane’s home city, past his flat on Sandy Row, before the service in St Anne’s Cathedral.

Thousands of fans are expected to line the route to pay their respects in what is expected to be the biggest funeral since the death of George Best in 2005.

Higgins, who was 61, was found dead in his flat last Saturday evening.

The cause of his death is still uncertain, with the preliminary results of a post-mortem not being released at the family’s request.

Meanwhile, plans are continuing for the funeral.

The cortege will leave the family home in the Roden Street area at around 9.15am.

It will continue alone Donegall Road and on to Sandy Row, stopping for a short time at Higgins’ birthplace at Abbington Street.

The procession will move on to Hope Street, passing on to Great Victoria Street and Fisherwick Place, before moving on to Donegall Place.

It will then move up Royal Avenue and along Lower Donegall Street before arriving at St Anne’s Cathedral at around 11.30am for the service.

The funeral service — which will be conducted by Dean Houston McKelvey — will be shown live by Sky News and the BBC News Channel.

Higgins’ long-time friend Will Robinson, who is helping to organise the funeral, said it will be a very moving ceremony.

“I think the streets of Belfast will see exactly why Alex was known as the ‘People’s Champion’,” he told the Belfast Telegraph last night.

Hundreds of guests have been invited to the service, including stars from the worlds of sport, television and music.

Mourners will also include Higgins’ daughter and son, Lauren and Jordan, as well as sisters Jean and Anne.

Higgins’ body was released to his family on Tuesday morning.

In death notices placed in the Belfast Telegraph, the family have spoken of their “deep regret” at his passing.

They have asked that donations be sent to Macmillan Nurses c/o Houston and Williamson Funeral Directors in Belfast.

Another notice, placed by Higgins’ cousin William Henderson, read: “Thanks for the great snooker memories you gave us Hurricane. At rest.”

Another read: “From the Jampot to the Crucible, we travelled many roads together.”

Meanwhile dozens of moving tributes have been posted on the Belfast Telegraph’s online book of condolence.

One from Alex Weatherhead, now living in Melbourne, recalls an appearance by Higgins in Larne many years ago.

“I first saw Alex Higgins play in the McNeill's Hotel in Larne,” it reads. “He was late for his match because he was next door having a bet on the horses.

“When he walked into the hall the place erupted. What followed was an absolute spectacle of snooker brilliance.”

Another reads: “No one will ever have such an impact on a sport as Higgins did with snooker.”

Belfast Telegraph

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