Alex Higgins: Last poignant journey through 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.”