VIDEO: 104-year-old saviour of Sheffield Cathedral’s stained glass

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The man who pieced together from memory the damaged windows of Sheffield Cathedral after World War Two has celebrated a remarkable milestone.

Stained glass window designer Cecil Higgins – born on August 3, 1912 – has celebrated his 104th birthday.

Cecil Higgins celebrating his 104th birthday at Grange Crescent Residential Care home with Asha Oliver, care home manager, and Kay Leng, key worker

Cecil Higgins celebrating his 104th birthday at Grange Crescent Residential Care home with Asha Oliver, care home manager, and Kay Leng, key worker

Cecil led a team who removed stained glass windows from churches around Sheffield during the war.

“I removed all the stained glass from the Sheffield Cathedral and all the principal churches in the diocese and that was a hard job.”

He had to number the panes and draw where each piece went before they were placed in steel containers.

The stained glass and drawings were stored at Nunnery Colliery in Handsworth for the duration of the war.

Cecil Higgins as a young man

Cecil Higgins as a young man

But after six years’ service for the West Yorkshire Regiment’s heavy artillery, Cecil returned to Sheffield in 1946 to discover disaster has struck.

The crates had rooted and the stained glass was water damaged and had fallen apart. His drawings were also missing.

“It had flooded and had been underwater for the best part of six years,” Cecil said.

He then had to go about he painstaking task of organising and replacing the windows from memory. The job lasted four years.

Cecil Higgins pictured right, aged about 10

Cecil Higgins pictured right, aged about 10

He recalls thinking: “I wish I’d stayed in the army!”

Cecil is very proud of his army service: “It was a good band of brothers. I have never known such faithfulness for one another as I experienced in the Army.”

He had a passion for art and painting, often giving his work away for free.

“I always wanted to be in the art world and I was one of four scholarships at the Sheffield School of Art,” he said. “When I was 11 years-old, I was sent to a firm with three other young men and we were interviewed by a stained glass artist who wanted an apprentice. I was the man he wanted.”

And his advice for a long and health life: “Live as simply as you possibly can and get plenty of fresh air.”

Cecil, one of five children, attended Gleadless County School and later Manor Lane School, where he met his late wife Winifred. They married in 1937 and had two children.

He was surrounded by cards and well-wishers at Grange Crescent Residential Care Home in Nether Edge, Sheffield, for his big day. His 101-year-old brother visited him last week.

Cecil said: “I’m very grateful for all the good wishes and, most of all, the Lord’s blessing on my life.”

Kay Leng, 42, key worker to Cecil, said: “His life is an inspiration. He’s amazing. We can’t keep up with him. He is very independent. He’s a joy!”

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