Obituary: Alex “Hurricane” Higgins, Snooker Legend
It’s only right and proper that Club Historians should pay their respects to the late, great snooker player Alex Higgins, who died in late July. He couldn’t beat off the throat cancer that took hold though his demise was probably hastened by a number of ills he suffered in the latter part of his all-too- brief life. Much has been written about his amazing skills, personality and extraordinary achievements in the games. Much also has been written about his problems. We don’t need to repeat all of that here.
He was reduced to a shadow of his former self by the time he passed away at the age of 61.
But here I would ask for us to remember his great years and the joy he gave to millions of snooker fans and players throughout the world.
Let’s just remind ourselves of what a fantastic player this twice World Champion was. He held his audiences in captivity and suspense and was a larger-than-life character. He helped to popularise a game that was very much a ‘club’ game, one that millions of men of all ages played on a regular basis, up and down the country.
It might be hard to remember but snooker used to be a relatively unseen sport, despite its popularity not only in thousands of working men’s clubs but also snooker halls and elsewhere. It was not considered worthy of wider audiences outside those who gathered around the tables regularly to watch their mates and fellow club members. The many thousands of competitions and tournaments organised within the club movement, often under the umbrella of the CIU games sections, attracted plenty of people, including women, who appreciated a sport they were often not allowed to play until a few decades ago.
But snooker was not a game considered interesting enough for television audiences.
Until the 1970s, that is, when competitions began to be screened regularly. Their popularity would not be in doubt, given the large ‘fan base’ already in existence due the games broad appeal in the clubs.
But it was characters like Hurricane Higgins who really helped make it a televisual sport and helped to popularise it outside of those circles. He became known as the ‘people’s Champion’ because of his common touch and down to earth attitude. He seemed to be not only a natural to the game but also to television. The rise and rise of TV snooker was a truly important phenomenon during the 70s and 80s and paved the way for others to follow, such as darts.
He also paved the way for other characters to follow, men who were not only good at their game but also keen to entertain. He was and remains much respected amongst the snooker fraternity and the tears shed by another great snooker champion, Jimmy White at Alex’s funeral were very real indeed.
Alex played no small part in this. And we should thank him for the entertainment he provided and for helping club snooker players feel they belonged to a very large sporting community.
It’s hard to judge from viewing figures alone just what TV snooker brought to its viewers. I think especially for older club members and players, who perhaps could not get out as often as they once did, being able to watch top class performers on TV was a real boon. I know that in my parent’s house, when the world championships were on, there could be no interruptions! I am sure this is the same for many of our readers and their families.
So, it is very sad that Hurricane Higgins has left the room. A void might remain but also a legacy.
Rest in Peace Alex! You won’t be forgotten.
Ruth Cherrington, Aug. 4th 2010
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