#OTD in 1949 – Birth in Belfast of Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, snooker player and two-time world-champion.

Alex Higgins started playing snooker at the age of 11, often in the Jampot club in his native Sandy Row area of south Belfast and later in the YMCA in the nearby city centre. At age 14, he left for England and a career as a jockey. However, he never made the grade because he was too heavy to ride competitively. He returned to Belfast in 1965, aged 16, and he had compiled his first maximum break. In 1968 he won the All-Ireland and Northern Ireland Amateur Snooker Championships.

Alex Higgins came to be known as the ‘People’s Champion’ because of his popularity, and is often credited with having brought the game of snooker to a wider audience, contributing to its peak in popularity in the 1980s. He had a reputation as an unpredictable and difficult character.

Higgins, who hit the snooker world like the hurricane which became his nickname, was to become the biggest box-office draw the game has ever known.

Snooker great Alex Higgins died at age 59. Hurricane Higgins was one of the first ‘rock stars’ of snooker, winning world championships in 1972 and 1982. He was flamboyant in everything he did, both on and off the table and a lifestyle of women, alcohol and smoking was grist to the mill for the tabloid press. The undisciplined lifestyle ensured he never won as much as his talent might have suggested and unfortunately accelerated his death, effectively penniless, from cancer in 2010.

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