Fionn McCool Higgins and his Granda

The Belfast Lad and the Grandlad

The Belfast Lad is Francis Higgins a 60 year old post-graduate tour guide who was born and bred in Belfast.  He was born in Woodford Street on the Old Lodge Road in Belfast City in 1960 and went to school in Brown’s Square primary school until aged 11.  His next school was Somerdale Boys School which he left to find work and an apprenticeship aged 15.  His first job was at Hall’s Paint Brush Factory in Wilson Street (Brown’s Square) where he met his wife Angela in 1976. This lasted until he could volunteer for the British Army aged 18.  At 19 he was on patrol on the Streets of Belfast as an Army Regular and their Daughter Clare was born.  After a few years in the army the Belfast Lad realised he and his comrades were little more than supplementary targets rather than an effective military intervention force and he went to work in the famous Harland & Wolff Shipyard as a ‘Redleader’ (a tough painter!) where he worked for 20 years.  Francis (Jnr) their son came along during this time and his wife bet him a packet of 20 cigarettes that he would not go to night school to gain qualifications.  The Belfast Lad won the bet and attended ‘Return to Study English’ with the wonderful teacher Ivy Green at Malvern Street School (10 feet from where his Belfast grandfather lived as a shoemaker in the 1920s and 30s depression.) From there he went on to gain over thirty qualifications through the Belfast Institute and national universities ending initially with a Masters in History then going onto a Post-Grad in Education before completing an a Diploma through Yale University in Ancient Roman Architecture. Harland & Wolff Shipyard ceased the major production of ships and also closed their Paint Department however the Belfast Lad first became the senior teacher/lecturer at Blackwater House (where he won the British National Training Award in 2000) then the senior manager at ITxp Training (where he won the Northern Ireland Training Award in 2002) and where he first taught Irish History within IT teaching modules.

Belfast History Troubles Peacewalls

The Brown Street School Football Team with the Belfast Lad Back Row 3rd Left

The Belfast Lad was the first to offer and deliver integrated cross-community history teaching modules with guided professional tours and won a major award with the Clonard Kids project.  Belfast Lad first delivered these multi-layers tours in Dublin, Donegal, the Battle of the Boyne Site and Belfast City Centre in 2003 and as part of his academic development also designed and delivered a multi-agency project in France, Belgium and Poland (where he was awarded a certificate of merit from the German Army (Deutsches Heer) for his work in reconciliation from the commander of the German Army in Europe.  The Belfast Lad joined the Auschwitz guiding staff as an English speaking guide in 2006 and delivered tours from the selection point at Birkenau and also Krakow military cemetery. He was presented with a badge of merit by the Polish Government at a special ceremony in Krakow for his work in integrating the Polish community in Belfast.  In the past few years the Belfast Lad has decided to have a bit of Craic and offer the tours he has developed for over 20 years to local and worldwide travellers and has gained a reputation for being a 5 Star rated tour provider offering unique tours that not only take in the sights but also the history, heritage and memories of the places visited.  Anyone with an open and enquiring mind can go on a Belfast Lad tour and see and hear 5000 years of Irish history and heritage and also discover the hidden histories of people who once shone a light in humanity but sadly that light was extinguished sometimes in the most brutal circumstances.  On this Journal you’ll see some of the people and sometimes hear their stories and also discover that the Belfast Lad is one of the luckiest people on earth as after dodging, bombs, bullets, black dogs and bullshit artists he’s still here, married with two cracker kids and another daughter Cathryn Higgins the wife of Francis. Now the Belfast Lad’s Grandson has come too along with Francis-Fionn Higgins who has awoken again on the sound of the Dord Fiann and will make his family and people proud of him!

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