Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Alex Hurricane Higgins - Don't feel sorry for me, I stood on top of the world

Alex Higgins, Hurricane Higgins, Snooker, Hellraiser, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Yesterday I was reading how the surviving family of snooker legend Alex Higgins has criticised Belfast City Council in light of the lack of a permanent memorial to their brother alike the naming of the city airport after George Best. Disappointingly I also recall a while back how the public subscription appeal for a statue to Best was saved by a substantial donation from a businessman.

Higgins' character was obviously of more flamboyant and unreserved bent than Best and one must assume that there was more of a cross-generational appeal to even a playboy as regards a hellraiser. That let alone without broaching some of more particularly outrageous moments of Higgins' life story - up there with Elvis's 1977 CBS Special or Amy Winehouse Live In Belgrade - regarding death threats to team mates and scatological comments to one particular teenage snooker wuenderkind.

Nevertheless Alex Higgins' talent was certainly utterly unique amongst the chaos of his life and times. Likewise his final autobiography was genuinely moving, funny and utterly contrite.

The Belfast Telegraph's Gail Walker captured Higgins' appeal beautifully in a magnificent obituary:

Somehow, he managed to create his own piece of Belfast wherever he went, a scale model of the city exact in every detail from the good looks, the charm, the rakishness and the genius, right down to the tiny detail of the pig-headed, sometimes stupid, gable-wall uproar...More than anyone in the public eye, Higgy was a Belfastman, soaked in the city he was born in. It was that which we recognised here — Higgy made it under the wire of our different religions and allegiances, infiltrating our affections, simply because we knew that if his genius was his own, his flaws were all ours.

More pithily - though perhaps just as genuinely felt in similarly Belfast fashion - another poster on a Northern Ireland-orientated internet forum noted "He was a wanker - but he was our wanker".

Either way the family's disappointment certainly hints at how modern society - even one as self-analytical, emotional and pathos-loaded as Ulster - is gradually moving more and more away from what were once very fundamental historical codes of communal awareness and pride.

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