The Belfast-born sportsman, nicknamed the ‘Hurricane’, was twice world champion and twice runner up. He died after a long battle with throat cancer.

In the lead up to his death there were fundraising auctions to try help Higgins cover the cost of his treatment, to which even long-time sporting enemies contributed to, but the battle was a futile one.

Higgins was renowned as a heavy drinker and smoker throughout his life, and had a particular penchant for pints of Guinness, which he was often seen drinking at bars.

Alex Higgins will perhaps best be remembered for turning the game of snooker into a television spectacle, which began to be watched in homes around the world, and for giving the game a renewed sense of popularity and appeal, particularly to young people.

He was also renowned as a colorful character. 'When Higgins came on the scene he had a style that set him apart from other professionals,' Clive Everton, the veteran BBC commentator and esteemed snooker historian, said.

Players mixed occasional attack with canny defence. Higgins was more attacking, much more flamboyant.'

'A snooker revival needed a personality out of the ordinary for people to become attached to. That was Alex. And for good or ill, he did get snooker talked about and written about in both the sports pages and the news pages,’ he added.

His heavy drinking nature also attracted its critics, though. The governing body of snooker fined him £1,000 for a number of misdemeanours including urinating in an ornamental flowerpot at the Crucible, which won him few fans, and as he got holder his drinking was reputed to be more and more out of hand. He also once head butted an official who asked him to provide a urine sample for a random drug test and punched both a referee and a tournament director.

Although few in the snooker world expected him to live past 30, apparently due to the extent of his drinking and smoking, he in fact lived to just over sixty.

The last twelve years of his life were spent in a long and agonizing battle with throat cancer. He could only eat baby food and in the last few weeks of his life was reduced to speaking in only a whisper. He also suffered mentally, telling a newspaper how he sometimes contemplated suicide during the winter, but then thought the better of it.

Despite the progression of his cancer he stubbornly refused to cut down on the 80 cigarettes he used to smoke, and was still in the habit of drinking massive quantities of spirits and alcohol. He was living in various stages in a caravan and sheltered accommodation.

At a fundraiser in March, friends and fans were shocked by his appearance. Anyone who saw The Hurricane in his heyday, his swagger and rugged good looks, found it hard to reconcile with his skeletal figure and sunken jaws.

He was married but divorced twice.