William Higgie was born in Brunton, Fife, on 25 October 1839, the fourth of seven children.
After working at three estates in Scotland he went to work at Kew Gardens in 1864. In 1865 he was approached by Eleanor, Duchess of Northumberland, who was seeking a top-class gardener for her new estate at Stanwick Hall.
In 1870, he married Jane Turnbull, and they had eight children.
In 1900, when Country Life came to write about the house and gardens, the Duchess would allow them to picture only one person in the gardens - her Head Gardener, William Higgie, such was her regard for him. Among other fruit varieties he raised were the Stanwick Nectarine and Stanwick Elruge.
He remained at Stanwick as Head Gardener until his retirement in 1911, in a house built and furnished for him by the Duchess. After retiring he moved to Gilling West, where he died in 1929.