Month: April 2017

Ricky Tomlinson on The Other Side: A Psychic’s Story by David Drew

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By Ricky Tomlinsonimg-524115919-0001

I first met David Drew Many years ago. I had at that time, a bistro/bar in Liverpool called ‘The Limelight’, which faced the iconic Adelphi Hotel. It had previously been a ‘gentleman’s club’, but had been empty for many years and required quite a lot of renovation. All sorts of people came there, some to perform, others for a drink or a game of pool. We even opened early in the morning during the postman’s strike to serve tea and breakfast to the striking workers.

At first, small things would happen there. Strange noises would be heard at night, but not much notice was taken as the lads would be too busy laughing or playing pool. This was soon to change.

One of our regular customers was known as ‘The Garstang Butterfly’ because of two butterflies tattooed on her ankles. She had been a lady of the night in her younger years, and she fascinated me with tales of her exploits, such as being thrown overboard into the Mersey after being abused by foreign seamen docked in Liverpool. It was because of this lady, who I prefer to call Chloe, that I met David Drew.

One evening in The Limelight, Chloe said, “Rick, I’ve had a really bad night, I need to go home.” Usually I would drive her or ask one of my regulars to take her home in my car, but there was no-one there who could drive her, and I couldn’t leave the bar, so I told her to go upstairs to my flat for a few hours’ sleep and I would run her home after I shut up for the night. She took my keys for the flat and went upstairs. For an hour or two things went on as normal in the bar, lads playing pool or cards and chatting away as usual, but then a scream rang out from the rooms above. I dashed up the stairs to the flat, followed by two or three customers. Chloe had smashed the window and climbed out onto the parapet. We coaxed her in and asked what was wrong. She told us she had woken and moved to come downstairs, when a tall man in a cap and long overcoat wouldn’t let her pass. He said, “I’m waiting for Nelly”, then disappeared just before we arrived. A day or two after the story was printed in the newspaper, David came to the Limelight and had a look around. For three days he trawled through the building. He was living in Llandudno so he stayed in a hotel next to the bar for three days and nights at his own expense. Finally he said to me, “Rick, the place is alive with ghosts.” How right he was proven to be! This was only the first of many experiences in the club.

He went about his work, sometimes not even stopping for a cup of tea. I left it to him until the end of the third day when he said to me, “I have to sort this last one out, then everything should be okay.” I didn’t understand what he meant, but he went into the upstairs bathroom and was there for what seemed like an age. When he finally came out I thought he had been fighting a world champion! He was red in the face and his hair was dishevelled. “It’s all clear now,” he said, “you won’t be bothered again.” I asked him what had happened and he explained that a spirit had shot his mate, then committed suicide, but was refusing to ‘go over’.

David left after three days, but we stayed in touch. Sometimes I even introduced him onto stage. He obviously has a special gift. This may sound like a load of nonsense to people who don’t believe, but since then I have never had a single doubt in the existence of the spirit world. It is not something we should be afraid of. Perhaps this book will let us in on some of David’s secrets, of which there must be many.The Other Side: A psychic’s Story available on from £3.25

My childhood – (excerpt from ‘The Other Side: A Psychic’s Story’)

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When I was a small boy, I had no idea that my memories of curling up cosy and cramped in the womb, or indeed of the wonders that came before that, were in any way unusual. I was oblivious to the reality that other people didn’t see spirit on a daily basis the way I did. My family humoured me regarding my ‘imaginary friends’, and it came as a shock to all concerned when we realised that I was the one who had been telling the truth all these years and that their acknowledgements and interactions with these people had just been a kindly pretence for my benefit.

As the long shadow of my childhood fades, I am surprised to feel an ache for those days I had almost forgotten. Although hailing from South Wales, I spent much of my youth among the brick and tile of the West Midlands, where my parents travelled to find work before my father’s early demise. I don’t remember my dad and have never seen him since he passed. I realise now that this is not so strange. It is usual for a medium to see little or nothing for their own benefit.

Mum struggled to feed her brood at the expense of what would today be termed ‘quality time’ with the kids. Life was hard for a single mother with four children in the 1950’s. It was not much easier before my dad died. A large chunk of his wages would find it’s way into the pub or the bookies before reaching the kitchen table, and on the night I was born, my mother staggered, cold and alone, to the telephone box to call the midwife, while dad drank himself into a stupor down the road.

My childhood world was one of cold lino flooring, hand me down clothes and skipping the free school meals for which I was too proud to queue. Mum was a serious, God fearing woman with a strong Welsh accent, tiny in stature but strict as they come. She was not by nature a demonstrative mother. Ladies of her generation often suppressed their emotions, exchanging them for the strength of character they needed to show if they were to survive.

My teenage sisters, Annette and Helen, were like second mothers to both myself and my big brother Tim, just two years my senior. They helped out all they could as our mum struggled to rear her children on thinned down soup and a prayer. They would step in when she was working, or perhaps asleep after a long night shift, changing our nappies or taking us to school.

One bitterly cold morning Helen took me to the shops in my hand-me-down, squeaky blue pushchair. A woman from the neighbouring street stopped us at the kerb and scolded her without reserve for taking me out without any socks on such a freezing day. My stroppy teenage sister told her to mind her own business, but the remark cut her to the core. It hurt all the more because she knew it was true, but she had no choice. I didn’t have any socks. In the weeks that followed Helen saved what pennies she could and one day proudly returned from a trip to Woolworths with a pair of Perlustra socks especially for me – the best in the shop! She was barely more than a child herself, but she doted on her little brothers. When she became a mother many years on, she boasted that babies were nothing new to her. She had done it all before with us.

Although there was no silver spoon for us, no ice creams when the van came around, no bottle of pop to take to the park, when I think back to those days I can appreciate the value of some small acts of kindness from a few big-hearted people.

I could not have been more than three when Helen took me on an errand to pay the coal man who lived a few streets away. Mrs Corkran, his chubby wife, opened the shiny red door, which matched her cheeks perfectly. The terraced house was soot-blackened but the step and doorknocker were immaculate. She and my sister exchanged niceties as I craned my neck to see past her to the bowl of fruit which was displayed on her sideboard, as stately as the crown jewels. I was awestruck. The cut glass sparkled from pride of place on a white lace doily, and the bright colours and simple shapes within it captured my imagination. This lady must be very rich! As Helen said her goodbyes, the generous coal man’s wife noticed my wide eyes and open mouth and asked us to wait. She returned a moment later with an orange so huge that I needed two hands to hold it. I ran my tiny fingers over the little bumps on the waxy skin and held it to my nose to inhale the exotic smell. She smiled down at my happy little face and waited for me to thank her.

“What do you say?” Helen prompted

“I’ve got a brother at home!”

My sister was mortified and apologised through pink cheeks for my bad manners, but Mrs Corkran just laughed and returned to the bowl to fetch another for Tim. I will always remember that walk home, proudly cradling two precious oranges in my jumper.

In my nursery days we had free school milk. A small, tepid bottle with a straw though the cap. For those who had sixpence, there was the added delight of a chocolate covered digestive biscuit in silvery blue foil. The other children would collect their milk and then queue for a biscuit.  I never had sixpence so I became accustomed to sitting alone with my drink, gazing at the other children as they licked their chocolatey fingers. One day after everyone was served, the kind teacher lady shouted me to the front.

“There’s a biscuit left David. Would you like it?”

My eyes lit up! I still recall how I savoured that biscuit and how for that one day I was like the other kids. I was without doubt the luckiest boy alive. Not until I was an adult did I realise that the teacher must have paid the sixpence herself. I can’t remember her name, but God bless her for that. I doubt she realised the little boy would remember her small act of kindness for more than fifty years.

There are some wonderful people in this world. My final Good Samaritan story is about a heroic milkman. It was just before Christmas when Tim and I were still small. My mum was distraught because she had nothing at all to give us. As a single mum, it was hard enough to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. She sat up to the kitchen table and wept. Her boys were excited that Santa was coming, and she was defeated and demoralised. A knock at the door caused her to rise and quickly dry her eyes. It was the milkman to collect his money. He was a down to earth but friendly local chap who spoke with a Birmingham twang. She paid her dues through forced smiles, but as he moved to leave the doorstep the man hesitated. Turning on his heels, he asked her if something was wrong. He must have seen the sadness behind her greeting. She was reluctant and embarrassed to begin with, but after a little pressure she was soon pouring her heart out, relieved for the moment to get her worries out in the open. He was visibly moved by her predicament and encouraged her to dry her tears, explaining it would only upset the family more to see her this way. Having shared her burden, he wished her well and they parted.

Christmas Eve came, and Mum deliberated on what she would say to us in the morning. She went to bed that night with a heavy heart and woke early to light the fire. Opening the front door to lift the milk from the step, she was greeted with a sight that made her cry again, but this time for joy. Next to the pint bottle was a stack of presents wrapped in red Santa paper and addressed to ‘The Boys’. There was a cowboy outfit and a tricycle, chocolate and other treats. We had a wonderful Christmas with no idea about our mystery benefactor. In this world of self and greed, it comforts me to realise there is a hidden seam of goodness running through it.

My first recollection of the ‘supernatural’, although please understand it was nothing if not natural to me, was when I was around five years old.

The night was bitter, and as I huddled under a musty mountain of overcoat blankets, I watched my brother’s misty breath flurry and disappear as he slept. Turning to the window my heavy eyes sought out boats and trees and other such little boy’s fancies in the icy condensation of the hopscotch panes.

Mum was working. She cleaned hospital floors in the night, to creep up on the germs when they least expected it. Helen had put us to bed, and would look in on us soon. I screwed my eyes up tight and hoped for sleep so that she wouldn’t betray me to Mum.


I caught my breath, startled wide awake as a familiar swish of dark hair in the half-light revealed the identity of my bedtime playmate. I waited, open-eyed now, anticipating the butterflies in my tummy when she did it again. I could hear stifled giggles under the bed.

Wait for it!


This time, Mary’s shiny, pink face popped up in front of mine. We both laughed, and Tim stirred.

“Shhh!” I hissed, oblivious to the fact it was my laughter that had disturbed him, not hers.

I must have been one of the very few children that looked forward to bedtime. Mary was one of several friends who came to play when I was tucked up and the house was still. She had big brown eyes and lashes like the cows I saw at my granny’s cottage in Wales. Her hair was cut short in a thick bob, and I judged her to be around the same age as myself. It didn’t occur to my childish mind to ask how she got into my room, or where she hid when we were disturbed. I didn’t know that she was dead.  I didn’t know what ‘dead’ was. We were friends and the details were irrelevant.

Taken from ‘The Other Side: A Psychic’s Story’ by David Drew