Belfast Telegraph

Higgins portrait hung in hotel

Alex Higgins saw himself as a snooker god - but wrestled with depression for much of his life, the artist who painted his last portrait said.

The twice-world champion known as the hurricane for his speed around the table spent hours in a Belfast studio with friend Alan Quigley.

The eight-foot high acrylic worth around £20,000 features the player with arms crossed and was hung this week in the five-star Merchant Hotel in Belfast city centre near other greats like George Best.

Higgins told Mr Quigley: "With my hands crossed like that I am a snooker god."

He wanted a card in his pocket, the ace of spades, but Mr Quigley said that as a gambler that would not be very lucky and suggested the ace of hearts.

His nails were also painted the colour of snooker balls and there was a cue with a cigarette on top to symbolise the smoker's decision to sue a tobacco firm after he developed throat cancer. The south Belfast-born player died in July 2010 aged 61 after battling the illness for almost a decade.

He won the world championship at his first attempt in 1972, the youngest to do so at the time. He finished runner up in the same tournament twice then won again in 1982, the pinnacle of a career netting him 20 other titles.

Despite this success, he was a heavy drinker, smoker and gambler and his two marriages ended in divorce.

Mr Quigley once showed him Norwegian Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream, and Higgins said the vivid image of despair reminded him of himself in the mornings. Mr Quigley said: "He liked the idea of this person staying young forever, who was totally ruthless."

The painting is hanging in the Merchant because Mr Quigley said the star wanted it to remain in Northern Ireland. There has been interest from buyers in Canada, Germany and China.

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