Childhood & Early Years
“Hurricane Higgins” was born Alexander Gordon Higgins on March 18, 1949, in Belfast, Antrim County, Northern Ireland, UK. His family were adherents of the Church of Ireland, the second-largest Christian community in the Irish isle after the Catholic Church.
Young Alex grew up in a tough neighborhood in the Sandy Row area in South Belfast. He started playing snooker at age 11, first at the ‘Jampot’ club in his locality and later at the ‘YMCA’ in Belfast city center.
He moved to England to pursue a career as a race-course jockey when he was 14 but had to return to Belfast after failing to make the cut. At age 16, he scored his first “maximum break,” and by 1968, he won both the ‘All-Ireland Amateur Snooker Championship’ and the ‘Northern Ireland Amateur Snooker Championship.’
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Professional & Post-Retirement Career
Possessing immense natural talent, Higgins turned professional at 22. He shot to fame overnight in the early 1970s, when he defeated mentor John Spencer to win the 1972 ‘World Snooker Championship.’ He became a household name in the UK with the sport drawing increasing interest from TV audiences, aided by shows such as the ‘BBC's ‘Pot Black’ (1969–1986).
He made it to the finals of the championship again in 1976 and 1980, facing Ray Reardon and Cliff Thorburn, respectively, but lost on both occasions. However, he struck back with a title victory over Reardon in 1982, leading to the memorable scenes of his wife and young daughter coming out of the audience to embrace him while he himself broke down in tears.
The 1982 world championship also saw an unforgettable semifinal between Higgins and close friend Jimmy White, with the former trailing initially but making a dramatic turnaround with outrageous shots that cleared the table with a break of 69. “That was his best. There were three or four shots in there which - under the pressure - will never be repeated,” White said in an April 2019 interview. He added: “I was in awe of him. I was watching my hero playing. That clearance is the best ever made.”
After winning the famous duel in the ‘UK Championship’ final against Steve Davis in 1983, where he came back from a 0–7 deficit to pull off a 16–15 win, Higgins remarked, “This is the best week of my life...We’re back together, it’s my daughter’s birthday and I’m the UK champion. What can beat that?,” with his wife standing beside him.
He won ‘The Masters’ titles in 1978 and 1981, beating Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths in the respective finals, and also clinched the ‘World Doubles Championship’ in 1984, in partnership with Jimmy White.
Higgins was also a three-time ‘World Cup’ winner with the ‘All-Ireland’ team. His last professional tournament victory came in 1989, with the invitational ‘Irish Masters,’ against a young Stephen Hendry. This win is often termed “the Hurricane's last hurrah.”
Higgins saw a swift decline in his fortunes thereafter, first losing his ranking, resulting in the disappearance of automatic invites to top snooker events, and then losing his sponsors and friends in snooker. Worse still, he got mired in a series of controversies and faced financial troubles thereafter.
Once he retired from professional snooker, he competed in amateur tournaments in and around Northern Ireland for smaller prize values. He participated in the ‘Irish Professional Championship’ in both 2005 and 2006 but lost in the first round on both occasions.
In May 2009, he entered the ‘Northern Ireland Amateur Championship’ but failed to show up for his match. In April 2010, he participated in the opening ‘Snooker Legends Tour’ at the ‘Crucible,’ alongside stalwarts such as Jimmy White, John Virgo, Cliff Thorburn, and John Parrott.
Family & Personal Life
Higgins got married to Cara Hasler, his first wife, in April 1975 in Sydney, Australia. They had a son the same year. Later, they also had a daughter, whom they named Christel. The marriage ended in a divorce.
He married his second wife, Lynn Avison, in 1980. With her, he had a daughter, Lauren, later that year. They also had a son, Jordan, in 1983. The couple separated in 1985, and he started dating his new girlfriend, Siobhan Kidd. The relationship ended in 1989, with Higgins allegedly assaulting Kidd with a hairdryer.
The snooker legend was charged and convicted of assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996 and was himself stabbed thrice by his girlfriend, Holly Haise, during an argument in 1997.
He was found dead in his apartment in Belfast on July 24, 2010. Although he had been battling throat cancer for over 12 years, his death was caused by a combination of malnutrition, pneumonia, tooth decay, and bronchial disease.
He weighed only 38 kilograms at the time of his death. Fellow snooker champion and friend Jimmy White helped carry his coffin while 4,000 people lined the streets. “It was unbelievable - but so sad,” White stated.