Tribute to Liam Higgins by Ted Creedon

November 14th, 2006
by Ted Creedon, The Kerryman Newspaper

One of West Kerry's best known sons Liam Higgins (61) died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday night after a long battle with cancer.

Following the news of his untimely death tributes and messages of sympathy to his family poured in to media outlets in the county.

Liam Higgins was widely admired as a teacher, sportsman and sports commentator. His prowess on the field began to attract national attention while he was a student at UCG, according to Michael O Muircheartaigh.

"Liam became famous for his football when he was doing his degree at UCG. That's where he first came to the notice of a lot of people – playing Siegerson football with the college. I first saw him playing for West Kerry at a match in Dingle. He was marking Donie O'Sullivan who was in his prime and people began to see Liam's potential for a future Kerry team," Mr O Muircheartaigh told the Kerryman on Tuesday.

"Then he played in 1969 and 1970 in a very good full-forward line of Mick Gleeson, Liam and Mick O'Dwyer. You often hear people talking about a line and that was rated a very good Kerry team that won two All-Irelands. The team was made up of new players like Liam and the old like Mick O'Connell, Seamus Murphy, Johnny Culloty and Mick O'Dwyer.

"Liam was always a Lispole man. Lispole had a lot of success from the 70s onwards and Liam played a big part in that success. He was also a selector with the Kerry team and a good selector because he travelled to games all over the county as a radio commentator. He was with Radio Kerry na Gaeltachta first and later with Radio Kerry. He knew a lot of players and was a good man to spot a player," he recalled.

Mr Higgins had recently retired from teaching commerce and accountancy at Dingle CBS since being appointed there in the late 1960s. His fellow teacher and close friend, Joe Creedon, greatly admired the Lispole man's dedication to his work.

"He had a great sense of professionalism and honour about his work as a teacher. He was professional to his fingertips. He had an excellent rapport with the students. He was their teacher in class and one of themselves outside the school. He commanded huge respect and he always said respect must be commanded.

"Something else about Liam that a lot of people wouldn't be aware of is that he had a great love of singing. He loved singing but didn't have a voice himself which was always a huge regret of his. He loved traditional Irish singing and he got huge enjoyment from Cor Chul Aodh at Darragh O Se's wedding a few weeks ago," Mr Creedon told The Kerryman.

Apart from his time teaching at the CBS Liam was also very involved in extra-curricular activities with the school, especially football. Under his guidance the CBS won two All-Ireland Championships – the first time the school ever attained such success. He was also fiercely proud of his brother Joe's success as a politician.

Apart from football his other great sporting interest was with the local gun club and he was considered to be deadly accurate with a shotgun.

Bernard O'Sullivan from John Street in Dingle said he admired Liam for his ability to get as much enjoyment as possible from every event and occasion.

"Liam was a gregarious character, full of life and full of fun. He was a very intelligent guy. When I was involved with Kerry and West Kerry you'd love to be in his company, win lose or draw. When he was playing with Lispole he gave it his all. Lispole won their six-in-a-row and we were at the losing end of most of those encounters. I had the misfortune of marking him on most of those occasions. He was full-forward and I was full-back and it was always a tough encounter. But you had to admire the man because when the game was over he'd come over and shake hands and that was the end of it. He always left it on the field, " he said.

St Mary's Church in Dingle could not accommodate the huge crowds who attended Requiem Mass for the late Liam Higgins on Tuesday afternoon.

For over three hours on the previous evening, hundreds of mourners paid their last respects to Liam and his family at O'Connor's funeral home on the Mail Road, Dingle.

In a rare departure from other funerals his coffin was shouldered to the church from the funeral home.

CBS teachers and students, as well as some students from the Presentation Convent, formed a guard of honour on the Mall, in front of the CBS, where Liam had taught for almost 40 years.

There were moving tributes, in song and word, during the funeral Mass which was celebrated by Fr Pat Moore. The Taoiseach was represented by his Aide-de-Camp, Comdt. Michael Murray.

Liam's brother Joe Higgins TD spoke of Liam's love of football which the family played in Ballineetig. He recalled how, as a youngster, Liam would give a running-commentary on the game, even as he was playing.

Radio Kerry sports commentator Weeshie Fogarty, who always partnered Liam on the station's live match coverage, spoke of his late friend's indomitable spirit. He recalled his astonishment and admiration of Liam's decision, while very ill, to commentate on this year's All-Ireland final from Croke Park.

In a very moving final tribute the congregation heard an excerpt from Liam's final radio commentary at the September All-Ireland final.

Liam's youngest son, Liam Og, also paid tribute to his late father at the Mass.

Family members shouldered the coffin, which was draped with Lispole, West Kerry and Kerry jerseys, to the waiting hearse outside.

The remains, donated to medical research, were later removed to Cork.

Liam Higgins is survived by his mother Nell; brothers Tom and Joe; sisters Mary, Nora, Teresina, and Helen; his wife Liz; sons Cian and Liam Og; daughters Jacqui and Eileen; grandchildren Olivia, Aoife, Sam and Naoise; and partner Helen.

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