independent

Sunday 27 May 2018

From Thomas Street to an MBE in 100 years

Anna Hayes

A young Mark Higgins having just joined the Merchant Navy.
A young Mark Higgins having just joined the Merchant Navy.
Mark Higgins and his wife Ann in Wexford railway station.
Commodore Mark Higgins (left) on the occasion of his retirement from the Reardon Smith Shipping Line

A Wexford man who was born in Thomas Street and worked his way up through the ranks of shipping company Reardon Smith Line celebrated his 100th birthday this week.

Mark Higgins now lives in Liverpool with his daughter Babs. He turned 100 on Tuesday, March 6.

The youngest son of the late Terence and Alice (née O'Rourke) Higgins, he grew up on Thomas Street and attended the Christian Brothers School in Wexford town, where he was also an altar boy at Rowe Street Church.

In 1934, at the age of 16, Mark went away to sea, joining the Reardon Smith Line of Cardiff as an apprentice. Thus began a long and amazingly eventful career of seafaring, which he eventually capped off with him being appointed a Commodore Captain of the Reardon Smith Line until his retirement.

Prior to that, Mark experienced many eventful moments. He served on coal coasters that ran from Newcastle to London in hazardous conditions, when German airplanes and E-Boats attacked their convoys. He saw many vessels lost while working on that service. He later served on deep sea ships and merchant vessels and spent much time around the areas of North Africa and Italy where German artillery proved very dangerous to ships in the Mediterranean.

He also visited Japan on a number of occasions in the 1930s. The first time was before the war, while the second time was after it. Docking in the port of Nagasaki, he saw firsthand the devastation of the city, following the dropping of an atomic bomb there.

After the war years, Mark continued his career in the Reardon Smith Line and married his wife Ann, a Liverpool girl with an Irish connection - her mother was from The Hook in Wexford. They enjoyed a wonderfully happy marriage up until Ann's sad passing in recent times. The couple greatly enjoyed visiting Wexford and did so regularly over the years.

Mark was further honoured by Reardon Smith when he was appointed Commodore Captain of the Reardon Smith Fleet, and also was made an MBE by Queen Elizabeth.

Mark now lives with his daughter Babs. They celebrated his 100th birthday at her home in Liverpool this week, reminiscing about the wonderful life the young boy from Thomas Street had gone on to have.

Wexford People