Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Emotional Jimmy White leads Higgins funeral crowds

Jimmy White carries the coffin of Alex Higgins.

A tearful Jimmy White has led mourners at the funeral of snooker legend Alex "Hurricane" Higgins.

The "Whirlwind" helped carry the coffin of the troubled genius from his family home in Belfast as other greats of the game, including Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty, followed. The funeral procession was led by a horse-drawn carriage as family and friends of the 61-year-old followed in sombre procession.

A cortege left the house in Roden Street in the south of the city to pass through the Sandy Row area, stopping at the street where Higgins grew up, before passing the social housing apartment where he was found dead last month. A fresh mural to the two-time world champion featured on the wall opposite the scene of his death.

A funeral service is to be held at St Anne's Church of Ireland Cathedral.

Higgins was found in bed at his flat just over a week ago and it is believed he had been dead for several days after a long battle with throat cancer, plus the impact of a life of heavy drinking.

Sections of Belfast city centre will be closed off for the funeral cortege and large crowds are expected to pay their respects to a former champion considered to be one of the finest snooker players of all time.

After turning professional he became the youngest World Championship winner at his first attempt, beating John Spencer in 1972 at the age of 22. The record was eventually beaten when 21-year-old Stephen Hendry claimed the trophy in 1990. Higgins claimed the world title for a second time in 1982.

A controversial figure, Higgins was banned from five tournaments and fined £12,000 in 1986 when he headbutted UK Championship tournament director Paul Hatherell.

In 1990 Higgins was banned for the rest of the season after he punched a tournament director at the World Championship.

But despite his numerous fights and rows with referees, he continued to play the game regularly and appeared at the Irish Professional Championship in 2005 and 2006.

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