Tributes paid to decorated Royal Navy veteran

Isaac Higginson. Pic by Ballyclare Photographs.
Isaac Higginson. Pic by Ballyclare Photographs.

Tributes have been paid to Royal Navy veteran, Isaac Higginson, who has passed away at the age of 100.

The Ballyclare man served as President of the Royal British Legion in the town.

Paying tribute, a spokesperson for Ballyclare Royal British Legion said: “It is with great sadness today that we learn of the death of our President, Mr Isaac Higginson.

“Isaac celebrated his 100th birthday in Ballyclare Royal British Legion on March 26 this year with his family and many friends.

“Isaac’s funeral is on Friday, November 16 at Fleming Cuthbert Funeral parlour at 10.30am then to Ballyclare Cemetery.

“Deeply regretted by The Officers, Committee, Staff and members of the Branch and the Club. Precious memories.”

Speaking to the Newtownabbey Times, Trevor McCusker said: “I am very sorry to hear the sad news of Isaac’s death. He was a gentleman and had so many stories from his time in the Royal Navy. My thoughts and prayers are with his family circle.”

Passing condolences to Mr Higginson’s family, Cllr Vera McWilliam said: “It is with great sadness that today that I learned of the death of Mr Isaac Higginson.

“It was indeed a great honour, along with Mayor Paul Hamill, to visit Isaac on his 100th birthday in the Royal British Legion , Ballyclare. Deepest sympathy to the whole family circle.”

Isaac signed up to the Royal Navy during peacetime in 1934.

He was a member of the Royal Naval Band prior to war breaking out and served on the HMS Valiant before he boarded the Laconia for his scheduled leave.

He was on RMS Laconia when it was torpedoed and sunk by the Germans on September 12 1942.

He then spent 16 hours in shark infested waters before being rescued by the very same Germans that sunk his ship.

Of those on board the ill-fated ship 1,621 souls were lost and 1,104 survived.

Isaac and his fellow survivors were put onto lifeboats and spent a week at sea before they were picked up by a Vichy French cruiser.

They were then interned in a camp outside Casablanca for eight months.

During his two-and-a-half year spell on the Valiant, Isaac served with a young Prince Philip of Greece, who was then courting Princess Elizabeth.

Isaac went to the cinema with the future husband to the Queen and was in the same turret as the Prince when the British sank most of the Italian fleet at the Battle of Taranto.

Following his release in 1943, Isaac returned to Ballyclare on leave. However, there was one small obstacle put in the way of his homecoming.

Speaking to the Newtownabbey Times in 2011, he said: “There was a taxi waiting at the docks in Larne and I asked him to take me to Ballyclare.

“He said he couldn’t because they had a 10 mile limit and it was 11 miles away. So I told him what I had been through and he told me to get in - and he never took a penny for the journey.

“When I walked through the door my wife Isa was in floods of tears, and then she gave off about my beard, but I told her I had no choice as there was no razor in the camp.

“I was ordered straight to the bathroom for a shave there and then.”

Mr Higginson left the navy in 1948 following campaigns in Japan with the HMS Black Prince and joined the civil service where he worked in the Department of Agriculture and became a Colour Sergeant in the Territorial Army.