Belfast says goodbye to legendary Alex Higgins
The people of Belfast have paid a warm tribute to hometown hero Alex ‘Hurricane' Higgins as a book of condolence was opened for the tragic snooker legend.
Young and old queued up at Belfast City Hall to pen their own personal reflections on the life of the maverick showman of the table.
Locals and tourists alike paid their respects amid calls for the city to stage a funeral on the scale of the one which marked the death of fellow Belfast man George Best five years ago.
Despite reports that Mr Higgins had requested to be buried beside his late friend and hell-raising actor Oliver Reed in Co Cork, there is mounting speculation that the snooker legend will be buried in Northern Ireland, with the Higgins family understood to favour a burial in Belfast. Friends of 61-year-old Higgins have already vowed to send the enigmatic two-time world champion off in style, using £10,000 raised for his medical treatment to fund a lavish funeral.
Local man Martin Murphy was among the first to sign the book on Monday morning. “I thought he was a legend of snooker — a genius just like George Best,” he said.
Lord Mayor Pat Convery, who said it would be the family's decision as to how the funeral would be conducted, said the book of condolence was a fitting gesture.
The SDLP man added: “I think it is important that the citizens of Belfast are given this opportunity to write something in memory of a sporting legend that they felt was one of their own and helped to put Belfast and this country on the map.”
Sandy Rainey, secretary at the QE1 Snooker Club on the Castlereagh Road, east Belfast — where Mr Higgins often visited — described him a “genius”.
“When he came in here, young people were just amazed at what he could do on the snooker table,” he said.
“Alex was a true genius, it’s just a pity him and Ronnie O’Sullivan weren’t playing around the same time, that would have been some game.”
Mr Rainey is very clear about what he would like to see as a lasting tribute to the snooker icon.
“In England there is The Paul Hunter Foundation. I’d like to see an Alex Higgins one here, that would be fitting I think,” he said.
“When George Best died, we witnessed huge crowds at his funeral.
“I think we are going to see something very similar for Alex.
“George also had £5 notes made in a tribute to him, I’d like to see a £10 note for Alex.”