Wigan-based author writes ghostly tale based at famous town landmark

A Wigan-based author got fans in the mood for her latest book by going to the place and winding back the clock to where and when it is set.

Haigh Hall figures large in Rhona Whiteford’s creepy novel a Legacy of Ghosts and centres on the time during the First World War when it was used as an auxiliary hospital.

A sequel to the successful A Bouquet of Nightshade, it blends fact, fiction and the supernatural.

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Author Rhona Whiteford with Major Alan Taberner and Major Linda Taberner from the Medical Living History Group with her new book A Legacy of Ghosts

It’s February 1915, the war is gaining pace and Haigh Hall, ancestral home of the Earl of Balcarres, has been loaned as a hospital.

Locals know that the building and its surrounding woodland are haunted.

Alice Martin returns to her home town to take up the position of Matron at the hall after the sudden and mysterious death of her predecessor.

Each wounded soldier brings his own phantom from the war and a ghostly presence stalks the passageways of the hall as conflicts brew between staff.

Guests listen in as Rhona Whiteford reads a chapter from her new book A Legacy of Ghosts

Alice must negotiate on all fronts to ensure the hospital’s continued smooth running and she calls on the services of her friend Sophia who is a clairvoyant and medium.

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Ideally the launch would have taken place at the hall itself but due to refurbishment work taking place there, it was shifted to the nearby Stables event room and extra colour was provided by actors dressed as some of the characters.

Rhona, who has written a lot of children’s fiction as well as adult works, said: “Although I was born in Urmston, my husband Frank and I have lived on the Haigh estate for 28 years and before that in Garswood, so Wigan has been home for almost 40 years.

“Living within the estate, I’m concerned to see the woods protected. I’m really glad that the lovely Hall will finally be conserved and regenerated so that more of us can use it and appreciate it.

Author Rhona Whiteford with her new book
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“I’ve seen the Hall in all weathers and it’s always in the winter that it looks most poignant, being empty.

“It’s said that it’s haunted and when a low mist surrounds it, and the woods are silent I can believe it. When I heard that it was used as an auxiliary hospital in WW1, a story began to take place in my mind.

“There are many people alive today whose grandparents and great-grandparents lived in that time and can tell of family lost and wounded.

“Women joined the home workforce in huge numbers, so I decided on a female lead for my story.

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“Alice is a miner’s daughter from Wigan who, as a girl, was a pit-brow lass but later became a housemaid at one of the many grand houses in the town.

“After 20 years, she’s educated herself, had four children that she brought up alone when she was widowed.

“She became a nurse and returned to Haigh Hall as Matron of the hospital when the previous one died suddenly in mysterious circumstances.

“It’s a war story and a romance set in a hospital that’s in a house haunted by more than the nightmares of the soldiers.”A Legacy of Ghosts costs £8.99 and is available in paperback from www.rhonawhitefordauthor.com or as an e-book from Amazon.

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