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Anna Nolan: Lonely legacy of a great and terrible Hurricane whose addiction was like one long, slow suicide

SNOOKER legend Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins was by all accounts a genius as well as a controversial figure in both his personal and professional lives.

No one likes to speak ill of the dead and this certainly proved to be true of the obits and tributes which flooded the newspapers and TV bulletins.

But I have some very ambivalent feelings about Mr Higgins.

His loss as a snooker genius happened a long time ago, in my opinion.


I don't dispute that he was one of the finest players to ever put chalk to cue. However, like his sometime drinking buddy and fellow Belfast badboy George Best, his personal legacy is the one which troubles me. As with Best and every other high-profile alcoholic, we always feel that we are watching a long slow suicide.

Words like 'flamboyant' and 'extravagant' hide years of addictive courting of ill-health, both physical and mental.

Words like 'colourful' and 'mercurial' hide years of domestic abuse and outbursts of violence outside the home.

The litany of violence against girlfriends and wives is too lengthy to list.

Suffice to say one girlfriend, Holly Haise, maintains that he beat her for two years solid and that she was suicidal for their entire relationship as a result of his addiction-fuelled psychosis and violence.

His second wife had to call the police to evict him and another girlfriend claims he broke her jaw with a hairdryer.

In 1986 he headbutted a referee at a tournament, in 1990 he threatened to have fellow champion Dennis Taylor shot and punched a tournament director at the World Championships.

Towards the end of his life Alex was trying to raise £20,000 for teeth implants as he had lost his own teeth in the cancer treatment and was surviving on baby food and Guinness.

He was living and subsequently died -- in sheltered housing. This was the 'retirement' for a sporting hero who had made millions in his heyday.


Such a lonely ending to a life which had held such promise.

Such a long, hard trek down the road of self-destruction.

Many of us know people in recovery and know that their non-drinking/non-using self bears little resemblance to these same people when they were in active addiction, and I have so much sympathy for anyone who struggles with addiction in it's myriad forms.

However, today my sympathies lie with the family, friends and ex-partners of Alex who, like all those left in the wake of a great and terrible Hurricane have had to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and carry on.

At last, we show some respect for single mothers

It gives me a great deal of pleasure, every now and then, to see how we have made some progress and positive social change.

One of these areas is that of recognising the validity of the unmarried mother.

I remember when the Social Welfare Allowance book for single mams was actually printed with those words of shame -- Unmarried Mother.

Having said that, I wonder if Lone Parent doesn't have rather a sad ring to it. Government name-makers, take note.

How heartbreaking it must have been for mothers in all those decades up until the 80s to have to hand over their tiny babies to strangers or face reject-ion from their families.


There will always be unplanned pregnancies. At last, we seem to have come to accept this and can, as a society, support the mums who love their babies as much as any who chose to parent within marriage.

It was with some surprise over the weekend that I learned of two more half-siblings of Phil Lynott who were put up for adoption -- and that history had sadly repeated itself when Phil's own son was given up for adoption in 1968 when he was a struggling young musician.

Giving a child up for adoption is an enormous sacrifice and should only have to be made if the parent/s feel that they simply cannot provide a loving, safe home -- not because of a ridiculous social stigma. Viva la change!