Christmas always was a giving time

THERE isn’t a time of year more nostalgic than Christmas, and I don’t think we would want it any other way.

Christmas is the only thing in our lives which remains basically the same.

We still have Santa Claus and Christmas trees, holly and mistletoe, Christmas cards, crackers and carols.

We all have our own memories of Christmas past and mine revolve around the nights I used to go carol singing with my friends.

Every penny we received we gave to our parents to help with the extra expense which Christmas always brought with it.

I also remember Christmas mornings when I used to go with my friends to the children’s treat prepared by members of Ebenezer Chapel in Longcauseway.

Hundreds of poor children would turn up early Christmas morning to be fed and entertained and to receive a Christmas gift from Santa. When I look back on those happy Christmas mornings I can only think of the goodness of those kind people who gave up their Christmas mornings for us.

After all, we didn’t belong to their church, and they certainly didn’t preach to us or try and convert us, they just opened their hearts to us and I’ll never forget them for that.

Feeding poor children at Christmas time was always a tradition in Dewsbury and there were always people ready to put their hands in their pockets to pay for it.

Looking back through old Reporter files you find lots of reports of Christmas treats for the poor and sick.

One report stated that in 1891 the poor children of Westtown were provided with a Christmas dinner and gifts.

It was stated: “Owing mainly to the efforts of the Rev WM Hackett, the indefatigable curate of Westtown Church, the poor children of the Parish, according to annual custom, were entertained to a Christmas dinner in the large schoolroom in Fall Lane.

“There were 225 poor children present, and each child received a substantial plate of hot roast beef and potatoes, followed by the seasonable plum pudding.

“At the close of the repast the seats were arranged for an entertainment which was supplied by a number of young men of the parish.

“When the time for closing the proceedings arrived, each child was dismissed with an orange and a quantity of sweets. The little ones appeared highly delighted with what they received and the attention bestowed upon them, an experience which it is feared they do not often enjoy.

“Mr Hackett desires to thank all the kind friends who helped to render this treat so successful, and to acknowledge the following subscriptions - Mr J Walker, 10 shillings, Mr R J Tweedale five shillings, Mr J E Blakeley, 10 shillings, Mr Joe Fox five shillings, Alderman T Richards, five shillings, Alderman B Fox, five shillings, the Mayor of Dewsbury, five shillings, Mr H J Fisher five shillings, Councillor Kilburn 2s 6d and Miss Tweedale, 2s 6d.”

IT WAS also a tradition in Dewsbury for all the inmates in the Workhouse at Staincliffe to be well fed on Christmas Day and to be entertained.

An old friend of mine remembers his mother, who had a beautiful singing voice, going every Christmas morning to entertain there.

When the Workhouse did eventually close and the destitute of Dewsbury were looked after by other means, Christmas festivities continued in local hospitals.

All the wards were trimmed and the nurses went from ward to ward singing carols.

I remember as a young child being an outpatient at Dewsbury General Hospital in the run-up to Christmas and being invited to one party.

This was in the early 1940s and it was a memorable occasion, especially when I was given a beautiful doll by Father Christmas.

The Mayors and Mayoresses of the town also used to visit the hospital on Christmas morning.

I remember as a young journalist accompanying them on their visit and then writing an article about what it was like to be in hospital at Christmas.

The most exciting time for Dewsbury children used to be the visit from Father Christmas to J&Bs store in the town centre.

He used to travel through the town on his sleigh and always arrived a good month before Christmas.

The streets used to be crowded with hundreds of children and parents all waiting to greet him. They had been warned well in advance to have their letters ready for him with their names and addresses on so they could give them to him. He was in the store every day from 10am to 6pm and children could buy parcels from him for only 6d.