The other side of Alex Higgins.

I am not claiming to have known Alex Higgins in any meaningful way. That said I had three or four conversations with him in the past decade born out of pure accident. He had returned to Belfast and lived in an apartment in Osborne Park at the back of Arizona cafe.
He was a regular presence in the neighbourhood motioning towards the local paper shop uninhibited to fetch a newspaper. As a student I thumbed lifts from South Armagh to the South of France. I always feel a certain empathy with the hitch hiker from those days.

It was this payback sentiment which prompted me to stop to give a lift to a gaunt figure wearing a hat at the bus stop who was thumbing a lift.

When he climbed into the car for the first time I had a blank. I could not remember his name for the life of me. He was immediately engaging and courteous. He was softly spoken and having established my identity he moved onto my sphere of interest, current affairs. What I discovered was a surprise. He was encyclopaedic on world affairs. He spoke authoritatively on many conflicts, military and economic in far flung parts of the world. I got the impression he was an avid BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service listener.

This pattern of giving Higgins a lift involved my driving him to the City Airport one afternoon. We again exchanged views on current affairs . He told me he was on his way to take part in an exhibition snooker match in England. As he stepped from the car he said ” just a minute. I have nothing to give you but here, take this book I am reading.”

That is how I remember Alex Higgins far away from The Crucible Theatre.

Ar dheis De go raibh anam Alex.
Eamonn Mallie

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