Belfast Telegraph

Ghost of The Oval who used to frighten opposition

By Eddie McIwaine

The Ghost of The Oval in Belfast is alive and well and living in Edinburgh. And if that seems like a contradiction in terms let me explain. This Ghost, now 77, was a legendary footballer called Alex Young whose silky skills when he was playing with Glentoran at their Oval stadium earned him the nickname The Ghost.

And I'm reminded of Alex today because a former team-mate in the Irish League was Derek Acorah who is now better known as a spiritualist and medium, due back here in November.

"Alex was the first ghost I ever came face to face with," chuckled Derek – Johnson when he was at The Oval – as he assured Glentoran fans that their ground wasn't haunted.

"This ghost was a real flesh and blood Scottish international footballer who in 1968 had signed for the Glens as player manager. He is now living in Edinburgh where family and friends remember how he was once called The Ghost or The Golden Vision when he was playing for Everton and Scotland, and later with the Glens."

Young joined Glentoran from Everton and one of his first signings for the east Belfast club was Acorah, who was then a midfield player under Bill Shankly at Liverpool.

"Alex was such an idol at Everton that I was delighted to join him in Belfast signing under my real name of Derek Johnson," recalled Acorah.

"It was the late Danny Blanchflower who nicknamed him The Golden Vision or The Ghost.

"In view of how my life changed after football it was an amazing coincidence how I met my first ghost of all.

"I used to train every day with Alex and Alex Parker, who was then at Ballymena United. We were three of the few professional players in Northern Ireland at that time and I had a passion for the game.

"I played in the Glentoran team with good players like Tommy Morrow and I stayed for a few seasons even after Alex returned to England and Stockport County.

"He was a great centre forward and should have won more than two caps for Scotland."

Johnson the footballer had always been aware of the spiritualist side of his being and he took the Acorah name of his grandmother who was a medium when he retired from the game with a damaged knee and became an investigator of the paranormal.

"I remember a few years ago getting a call about a troublesome spirit who was making a bit of noise at the Tullyglass House Hotel in Ballymena," he recalled. "So I sent my spirit guide Sam to the Braid to have a word with him and Sam quietened him and advised him to leave the Tullyglass atmosphere."

  • Acorah will be at the Waterfront, Belfast, on Thursday, November 20, the Strule Arts Centre, Omagh, on Friday November 21 and the Ardhowen, Enniskillen, on Saturday November 22

The search for a lost photo

I'd almost given up hope of ever finding a photograph which I cherished after it inexplicably vanished. And then someone told me about Anthony the Saint of Lost Property. So I had nothing to lose and appealed to this Christian Legend.

Did the picture suddenly appear? I'm going to keep you in suspense for a little while. Watch my space in this newspaper.

In the meantime I'll tell you all I know about this saintly one who was born in 1190 but who before his passing in 1231 had matured into a great preacher whose remains were buried in Padua, Italy.

He was canonised the following year after 53 miracles were attributed to him and the following saying was soon abroad all over Italy:St Anthony please look around – something is lost and must be found. Before Anthony's death a book of psalms which he valued was stolen and after he prayed for it to be returned the thief turned up and handed it over, full of guilt.

Ever since this Anthony has acquired a reputation as a finder of lost objects. Lost keys, umbrellas, wallets and watches which have all mysteriously turned up after prayers have been said. A violinist who discovered that his precious instrument was in the boot of his stolen car in 1983, turned in desperation an hour before his next concert to Anthony and minutes later was told the car and violin had been found. Can Anthony find lost photographs too? You and I are soon to find out.

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