Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Alex Higgins: Let’s have procession through streets, say family

Snooker legend Alex Higgins. 2010
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
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 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.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz