Newbold Biography - The Ghost of Annie Kirk

This information was collected by Jayne Smith (formerly McHugh), during her “One Place Study” of Newbold. It was previously part of her North West Derbyshire website.


A spooky tale contributed by “Liz” in 2003.

ANNIE KIRK (b.1891) was the daughter of John Kirk (b.1859) and Elizabeth Stevenson. John was a plasterer and later pub landlord of The Nags Head at Newbold. John died at the early age of 37, in 1898, when Annie was still a young girl. Eventually, Annie married and she and her husband, Walter Harry Green, took over the licence of the Nags Head Inn. Annie was my great Aunt and also Godmother. Walter and Annie had no children and I, being the first great niece, was greatly loved.

They were popular Licensees and the pub was always full to overflowing. There was “The snug” where the old ladies of the area would come and drink, often leaving their husbands in “The Tap Room” where you could cut the air with a knife, it was so smoky and my eyes would sting if I went in there… which was, of course, usually forbidden. The men in The Tap Room played dominoes. There were many interesting characters I remember including one old man who regularly wore a sprig of Valerian in his lapel. He was frequently drunk and, to this day, Valerian is known in our family as “Drunkard”!

I was a War Baby and things were in short supply, particularly medicines and good food. In 1945 while visiting the Nags Head I had a particularly bad cough and cold. My Aunt said she had just the remedy for it and I was duly poured a glass of port… at the tender age of 3! It warmed my chilled body (no central heating in those days) and quickly cured my cough. On my visit the following week, when offered my usual drink of lemon or orange juice, I requested “my medicine”!

In January 1949 my parents and I moved to Iraq and my visits to The Nags Head ceased. During that year Walter Harry Green died (buried in Newbold Church Yard 21 Nov 1949) and Annie was left to tend the busy pub by herself. In spite of the pressure Annie never failed to send me a beautiful party dress for my birthday each year.

Annie employed two “trusted” locals to help her in the bar. She never had a cash register but all the money was put into a large brass bowl at the back of the bar. One day in 1951 the brewery made a delivery and Annie went to the brass bowl to count out the money to pay their bill, however there were insufficient funds to pay. At this point she realised that she had been cheated by those she trusted. She was so devastated that she went out into the back yard where she had a large store full of coal. She set fire to the coal and closed the door on the world hoping to join her beloved Walter.

Annie was found before she died and was taken to Derby Mental Hospital where she remained until her death about 18 months later. That was the end of the beautiful party dresses and it could well have been the end of this tale if I had not decided to study my family history.

In August I decided that a visit to Chesterfield was a must as I was having trouble establishing my Kirk line. Firstly I visited Newbold Cemetery where I knew Walter Green lay buried. I was not sure what, if anything, I would find. I had visited the grave once with my mother and Annie to lay flowers but that was in 1950, almost 50 years ago. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found that Walter Harry Green had been buried along with his wife's parents, my great grandparents. It was noon on a Sunday lunch time as I left the graveyard and I decided to take a further trip down memory lane with a visit to the Nags Head for a short drink.

As I entered the bar I realised that hardly anything had changed, in spite of the many pubs and bars I have visited across the world, this one was almost in a time warp. I approached the landlord and said, “this is where I had my first alcoholic drink in 1945”. He looked rather surprised but extremely interested. He asked an old local if he'd been there then...he certainly looked as if he could have been but he vehemently denied it. I felt I should explain further so I mentioned the pub was owned by my family at the time. The Landlord became even more interested but I didn't know why. “Ah, could I ask you something”. I nodded, “of course”. “Did anything strange ever happen here?” he asked “well, you know what pub rumours are like… and… well… I'm not a believer….it's just that…” I felt he needed help, he was waiting for the explanation that only I could give him. “You mean what happened to my Great Aunt?” "Yes, something like that." I explained what had happened to Annie, I hardly dare watch his face, he was getting the truth of events for the first time. If I could have seen the hairs on the back of his neck I swear they would have been standing on end. As I finished he smiled and told me that his daughter had had a visit from a lady who sat on the end of her bed. “Of course, I don't believe in things like that, but it is interesting…” “Yes” I told him, “I'm sure that would be Auntie Annie.” I drank my half of lager and left him to mull it over! Perhaps I'll return again in a few years to see if Annie is still there!

Information provided “Liz”… Reproduced by courtesy of Jayne McHugh.

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