Tribute to Liam Higgins by Seamus O'Mahony

November 14th, 2006
by Seamus O'Mahony, The Kerryman Newspaper

The passing of Liam Higgins of Lispole, was expected as he had battled, as only he could, with cancer for months. But to be honest, when the call from Weeshie came early on that Sunday morning with the sad and simple news – "he's gone." I was shocked and sad, shocked because the death of a friend no matter whether expected or not does overcome us mere mortals; deeply saddened because I knew that a loyal and true person, that knew no boundaries when it came to helping those of us who required help in our daily struggle with life had passed from our midst.

Liam Higgins was my work colleague in Radio Kerry since its launch in 1990, he was instrumental in my becoming Head of Sport, through his encouragement advice, and his words to me "God, Seamusheen, the job must be yours, apply and have a cut." Liam was the voice of Radio Kerry Sport – through his wonderful passionate voice in bringing the game of football, its players, followers was second to none. He and his great friend Weeshie Fogarty became in my opinion the greatest duo of commentators on Gaelic games that the sport has known - Liam Higgins was a legend.

The GAA in Kerry are in his debt surely in a huge way, in fact the GAA worldwide owe him great words of gratitude, not alone did he win Munster, All-Ireland and National football league medals at senior level but through his work on Radio Kerry he promoted the sport hugely in all other places, his views of games were sought after by other commentators and he told it as it was. His devotion to his club Lispole, winning with them the six-in-a-row is well documented, how he loved that club - and indeed West Kerry. But surely it was his work for the GAA in his job as a teacher in Dingle CBS made him a man apart.

For 30 odd years he coached, cajoled and encouraged, the youngsters to play the game of football, and when the school won an All-Ireland title in 1995, Liam Higgins told me it was the greatest moment in Gaelic football. That Croke Park stands today as it is a great stadium is due in no small way to Liam. There was a man that in sunshine, rain, snow and hail, had broadcasted a match standing on a chair way back in 1991. He had done reports on the first mobile phones (remember the ones that were really like a sod of turf) in all kinds of weather, these were just reports. But in the early days of local radio when the link between the ground and studio was broken (a technical fault), Liam continued with the commentary on mobile phone. His energy in getting the games of the Gaelic to all corners of Kerry and beyond, simply knew no bounds.

Liam had many brushes with authority, he could give a Sports Editor palpitations, just by telling it as it was – and maybe more. But he had the greatest attribute that I think anyone can have, he never carried a grudge.

Liam was a member of that great non political party F.F. he was a footballer and a fisherman – I will miss those fresh mackerel!

The Indians of the Great Plains of the West in America, believed that man and nature are the one, that when we pass on to the spirit world, we will truly realise this. Liam Higgins, had a great love of the outdoors, shooting, fishing, walking. But he treated nature kindly - fish for what you want - shoot what you require, waste not the food that nature gives you. He bemoaned to me on a few occasions the slow death of the Rain Forests by saying there would be a price to pay in years to come. Talking and thinking of the Old West - was there a song by Gene Autry at one stage that had the line "Where never is heard a discouraging word." That was Liam Higgin's way of thanking, encouraging people to do better especially the youth as he used to say "they surely are our future".

Liam donated his wordly remains to science, and as the hearse pulled away from the Church in Dingle, to huge applause, a Lispole native strolling next to me, stated sadly that it was a pity that we will have no grave to visit to remember Liam. Worry not my friend, everytime we trun on the radio on match day, everytime we pass a ground where a GAA ball is being kicked in earnest, on All-Ireland final day, County final day, the tiny tots days at our own clubs, we will think fondly of Liam Higgins. To his mother Neil, his brothers, his sisters, his partner Helen, his wife Liz and their children, his grandchildren, his legion of friends, I extend my deepest sympathy and leave you with the words of Pope John Paul II:

"Our departed ones continue to live among us not only because ... their lives memory is part of our lives but especially because their souls intercede for us with God – I am happy and you should be happy too - do not weep. Let us pray together with joy".

God be with you Liam.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom