WARREN COATES describes how the Belfast ghost of James Haddock returned to stop his son being frauded
The most famous Belfast ghost is James Haddock.
Like Hamlet’s father, he had a wrong to right.
He pleaded his case well and persistently.
James Haddock’s trouble was that his wife was trying to filch some property from his son John.
In Michaelmas, 1662, James Taverner, a servant to the Earl of Chichester, was riding from Hillsborough to his master’s house in Belfast when his horse shied.
The cause of the animal’s fright was the ghost of James Haddock dressed in a white coat.
These facts were all authenticated by Thomas Alcock, secretary to Bishop Jeremy Taylor who recorded the whole affair in choice Latin. The lad was righted but James Haddock’s gravestone in Drumbeg churchyard was thrown down to keep him quiet. And so it remains to this day.
when James Haddock died in 1657 he left part of his land in the Malone area to his wife Arminell and the rest to his young son. The executor of the will was one Daniel Davis, who eventually married widow Arminell. They had a son and Davis altered the will to benefit this son instead. Davis nearly succeeded with his deception except …
Five years later James’ friend, Francis Tavener, was riding over Drum Bridge late one night when his horse reared up and there before him stood Haddock’s ghost. “Take Daniel Davis to court” moaned the ghost. “There is something strange happening to my will.”
This apparition appeared on several occasions, until at last Francis did take Davis to court.
The case was heard in Carrickfergus under Bishop Jeremy Taylor. By now the country was all agog, for news of the apparition had spread. The courtroom was packed. The blinds were drawn and in the gloom the proceedings began. Eventually came the moment all had anticipated.
“Call James Haddock” shouted the Usher – No reply. The crowd laughed nervously.
“Call James Haddock” – again silence. The crowd held their breath.
“Call James Haddock” went the cry again and slowly a hand, draped in a shroud, arose from the witness box and a disembodied voice boomed out “Is this enough?”
The crowd erupted. It was indeed enough and Davis was found guilty.