Belfast Telegraph

Back Then: Haunting tales of Whitewell spirit

New book tells the story of an old war soldier and the restless spectre of a lady

By Eddie McIlwaine

Was Whitewell, on the edge of Belfast, haunted once upon a time by a restless spirit? Indeed, is a spectre that goes by the name of Esther Prince still providing shadowy glimpses of herself to villagers in this quiet place a mile or two from Glengormley?

Back in 2007 as he lay dying, old soldier Gus Goodall (83) called his Queen's University lecturer son Ed to his bedside and told him a remarkable story about Esther and her haunting ways.

He finished by relating to Ed (65) how he had seen Esther, who had been in and out of his life since the Holocaust and the war years, one last time as a figure in the curtains of his room. "She could have been saying goodbye," said Ed, who stressed that, even though his widowed Dad (wife Patricia died in 2006) once a corporal in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, had reached the end of his life, he was still of sound mind.

But if you want to know more about Esther, who in her lifetime was the wife of a close friend of Gus, you'll have to read Ed's book which is called The Haunting of Esther Prince, in the shops from Blueberry Publishing and making a stir in America, particularly in New York. Let me warn you that St Malachy's old boy Ed, married to Mairead with whom he has four children, has put down on paper a chilling tale. I can tell you this much, it's all about a War veteran who is haunted by memories of a holocaust survivor. That information isn't a clue to the ghostly plot because Gus Goodall served in India with the Skins and was never in Germany.

Esther's earthly husband in the book commits suicide. I can divulge that without spoiling the story for readers.

The blurb on the cover of this paperback (priced at £7.99) says that the ficticious son of the military man in the plot "uncovers a dark underbelly of post-war Ireland that sucks him into a labyrinth which finally reveals the truth about Esther."

But don't forget we are dealing with a novel here. Does author Goodall really find out all the facts and truths about this mysterious and shadowy figure?

He published his first novel Cicadas in 2004 and since then has written one called Cold Cross which is all about the sinking of the cross channel ferry Princess Victoria and a mysterious passenger. Could she have been Esther? I ask in mini-jest?

It's sad that Sandie's had her Phil of Eurovision-winning song

My good friend Phil Coulter won't worry too much about veteran singer Sandie Shaw repeating her comments that she hated his hit Puppet On A String - with which she won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1967 - for its "sexist" lyrics.

The Puppet song was a mighty UK No.1 and sold millions of records.

It gave the girl who always went on stage in her bare feet her third UK chart-topper after (There's) Always Something There To Remind Me (1964) and Long Live Love (1965).

"Sandie's attitude to my lyrics and all doesn't bother me," he said. "All I can say is that it did her a lot of good that time in Vienna where Eurovision was held."

Shaw was 20 when she won Eurovision. She is now 67 and still singing on regular dates, so what is she complaining about?

Apparently she only agreed to do Eurovision that year to improve her image after being named as the other woman in a marriage break-up.

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