Thousands expected to pay respects at Belfast funeral of Alex Higgins

Procession set to take place through snooker legend's home city prior to service at St Anne's Church of Ireland cathedral

Thousands of people are expected to line the streets of Belfast when the funeral of the former world snooker champion Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins is held on Monday.

A procession through Higgins's home city will take place before the service is held at St Anne's Church of Ireland cathedral at 11.30am.

The funeral will be followed by a private family service before Higgins – who won the world championship twice – is laid to rest at the Roselawn cemetery.

The arrangements are being made by his sisters, Jean Simpson and Anne Brown, who nursed him during his battle with the throat cancer with which he was diagnosed in 1997.

His son, Jordan, daughter, Lauren, and close friend and fellow snooker player Jimmy White have also been involved in the plans.

Higgins's former PR manager Will Robinson said: "There's still lots of work to be done between now and Monday.

"There will be some kind of procession before the funeral at Belfast cathedral, and a private service afterwards for family.

"We also expect celebrities to be coming from all over the world. I mean, Jimmy White flew home from Thailand when he heard the news."

Belfast police are being consulted about security and crowd safety, and final plans will be made with Higgins's family tomorrow.

The funeral will be paid for with £10,000 originally raised to pay for the snooker star to have teeth implants. His teeth had been decayed by radiotherapy treatment, leaving him unable to eat solid food.

The death of Higgins, who was world champion in 1972 and 1982, has dominated the news in Northern Ireland, and a book of condolences has been opened at Belfast city hall.

The 61-year-old was found in bed at his flat in Sandy Row, Belfast, late on Saturday afternoon. It is believed he had been dead for a number of days.

He shot to fame after winning the world title at his first attempt, beating John Spencer 37-32 to become the youngest player to win the competition – a record since surpassed by Stephen Hendry.

He was nicknamed Hurricane for his quickfire playing style, which attracted new fans to the sport. However, he was a heavy smoker and drinker, and this decimated his health and form. He was also involved in some violent altercations with competition officials.

Although his illness and inability to eat solid food had weakened him, he had been optimistic about returning to professional snooker in recent months, and took part in a Snooker Legends event at the Crucible, Sheffield – home of the world championship – in April.


Gemma Kappala-Ramsamy

The GuardianTramp

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