Alex Higgins: Let’s have procession through streets, say family
The family of Alex Higgins is hoping to celebrate his remarkable life with a procession through the streets of Belfast.
Thousands of people are expected to descend on the city on Monday morning as the two-time world snooker champion is laid to rest.
As further details about his funeral were revealed, it emerged the Higgins family are planning a procession through the Hurricane’s home city before the service.
Higgins’ long-time friend Will Robinson said it would be one of the biggest funerals the city has seen.
“We are expecting tens of thousands of people,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“It will be one of the greatest send-offs Belfast has ever seen — a send-off befitting of the People’s Champion.”
Arrangements are being made for Canon Houston McKelvey to conduct the service at St Anne’s Cathedral in Donegall Street.
According to Mr Robinson, several hundred guests have been invited, including stars from the worlds of music, television, sport and film.
“There's going to be a whole list of celebrities there, all Alex's friends, and he had a lot of them,” he added.
Following the funeral a private family service will be held before Higgins is laid to rest at Roselawn Cemetery.
It is understood that Higgins’ sisters Jean and Ann, his son and daughter Lauren and Jordan, and fellow snooker star Jimmy White have been involved in planning the funeral. The PSNI has also been consulted about security and crowd safety.
The funeral will be funded through money which had been raised to buy Higgins a new set of teeth. Meanwhile it has emerged that the Higgins family are still waiting for the results of tests.
A post-mortem examination was carried out, but the preliminary results are not being released, at the request of the family.
A spokesman for the Coroner’s Service said the actual cause of death would be known in a few weeks’ time.
“At the family’s request, no statement is being made about the preliminary cause of death of Alex Higgins,” he said.
“It is anticipated that the actual cause of death will be known in some weeks’ time, when the results of laboratory investigations are available.”
It is not yet known if an inquest into his death will be held.
Higgins was found in bed at his flat in the Sandy Row area late last Saturday afternoon.
His final days, spent in the simple bedsit in south Belfast, were a humble end to a life lived in the spotlight.
He won the All-Ireland and Northern Ireland amateur snooker championships in 1968 and, after turning professional, became the youngest World Championship winner at his first attempt, beating John Spencer in 1972.
Despite his success, which included another world title in 1982, his lifestyle away from the table was a mess.
He wasted his £4 million fortune, while two marriages ended in divorce.
Before his death, Higgins had shrunk to barely six stones in weight and was living off benefits.
Mr Robinson said the family are still coming to terms with his death.
“They are totally devastated,” he added. “It's been a very hard time for everyone, but they are coping.”
Meanwhile, the audience at the Grand Opera House last night gave a loving tribute to the snooker legend.
Paddy Jenkins, the actor playing Alex Higgins in ‘Dancing Shoes — The George Best Story’, walked onto stage at the end of the performance and asked the audience for one minute of applause in his honour.
Members of the audience were visibly moved when he said: “Could we have a one minute applause for our Belfast hero who died this week.
“People just stood and clapped.”
The play by Martin Lynch and Marie Jones also features a poignant scene where the snooker player visits George Best during his final days in hospital.
During it the pair share |jokes over who was the biggest “rogue” and then sing a duet together.
Speaking afterwards a member of the audience told the Belfast Telegraph: “It was brilliant. The best part was when the actor playing Higgins sang the duet with George Best in hospital.
“It was very moving, after it was finished everyone just broke into applause.
“The audience were very moved and a few to tears.”
Dancing Shoes will be staged in the Grand Opera House until August 14.