Do you believe in Father Christmas …?

4 December 2020

I’m unashamedly making use of stories from my own family to help with these December diaries, but hope you enjoy them and that they spark memories for you, too. If they do, feel free to send them to me at and maybe I can put them in a later post!

The first is by my dad, who began writing his life story – prompted by a set of questions I gave him – when he retired from the Brush in the mid 1990s. Dad lived in Loughborough from the age of 15 until his death at 86 in 2018, but was born and raised in Barnsley.

‘During the Second World War, my parents used to travel to Sheffield approximately 14 miles away, where Mam worked in a factory making munitions for the War Effort and Dad – taken away from his normal job as a printer – also did War Work.  They worked on different shifts, but there was an overlap in their working times which meant the need for a childminder to look after us children.’ 

‘The daughter of a neighbour who took on the job snooped through our wardrobe one night and told us what presents we were going to get for Christmas.  The end result was that she was fired and we children lost our belief in Santa Claus!’ 

Interestingly, the experience didn’t stop my parents hiding our Christmas presents in the wardrobe, or us believing in Father Christmas despite once finding them there. (Our mum was an expert storyteller, however, and made up a very imaginative reason for it!)

The second story is by my older brother Alan, who regularly visited Dad’s parents in Yorkshire as a young child. His memory of what happened on one such visit is so outrageous it’s become part of our family folk lore.

Alan with Father Christmas c1960

There’s an old black and white photo of me in a shop that I recall was in an arcade – probably in Manchester because I remember [visiting] Nana’s sister and spouse in Manchester.

In the photograph, I was holding a white metal toy pickup truck, aged about 4 or 5, looking at Santa, who Nana had taken me to see and who had given me this wonderful present.

Santa’s helpers took my photo with the truck in hand – and as soon as they had, they took the toy off me and gave me the present I was to take home – a cheap paper Bingo set. I was gutted. Nana made her feelings known to Santa [and] we went back to Nana’s sister’s.

I was taken to Manchester several times. On one occasion we travelled in a bus (I imagine via Sheffield and Snake Pass – there were no motorways then) in the company of another female relative who was visiting from Canada. She gave me a Canadian cent. The bus swerved to miss a sheep and nearly plunged off of a steep hill side.

I can’t remember ever ‘visiting Santa’ as a child myself and don’t have particularly strong memories of the time we took our own children to see him at the Shires – though their dad informs me that the youngest screamed to the point of hysteria. I much preferred the years we went on the GCR’s Santa Express, with no queueing, a nice warm seat and the noise of any screaming passengers offset with a tipple and a free mince pie.

I asked members of my writing group whether Loughborough shops such as Potters had a resident ‘Santa’ back in the day and they said no, they did not. Apparently in the ’40s and ’50s he was called Father Christmas – none of this American ‘Santa’ malarkey – and you saw nowt of him until Christmas Eve.

Would save having to explain why your kids’ve bumped into him three times in one street, I guess.

Alison Mott

Father Christmas at Gillott’s Variety Stores, Churchgate, Loughborough. No date given but possibly the 1920s? (Photo from Bygone Loughborough in Photographs, Book 2)
Gillott’s Variety Stores, as above.