Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Alex Higgins: The publican who gave Hurricane a safe haven

Former world champion Alex Higgins in action in 1994
Snooker legend Alex Higgins. 2010
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.

Alex Higgins used a Dublin pub as his bolthole, a friend has revealed.

Dublin publican Hugh Hourican formed a firm friendship with Higgins and told how the Hurricane would spend hours drinking tea and chatting with fans in The Boar's Head on Capel Street.

He last visited the pub about six weeks ago — and one of Hugh's proudest possessions is an autographed photograph of Alex and fellow snooker great Jimmy White.

“I first met him in 1994,” Hugh recalled.

“Alex was a character, had a great personality and was a very bright man. He would come in and sit in the window with a glass of Guinness and a bowl of soup.

“In all that time I have never known him to be drunk. It was always a glass of Guinness, never a pint. To me he was more of a gambler than a drinker.”

Regulars at the pub got to know Higgins but never imposed on him and Hugh said Alex regarded it as a safe haven when he ventured south.

“He just sat in the window with a bowl of soup and his bookies slip. He was in heaven,” Hugh added.

Now the publican hopes to be among the thousands of mourners at St Anne's Cathedral to say goodbye to his old friend.

He said Higgins told him he would have been tempted to swap his snooker career for golf in another life.

However, the pair nearly fell out 12 years ago when Higgy asked Hugh to lend him £100 for “a sure bet”.

“I told him it's the old story — if I give a customer a loan they're gone, and I couldn't do it,” said Hugh.

“The following day he came in and took out £6,000 and just winked at me.”

Hugh also recalled reading claims that a girlfriend had stabbed Alex during a row.

The snooker champion walked in at that very moment, spotted Hugh reading the newspaper story and quipped: “It wouldn't be the first time someone stabbed me in the back.”

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