Santa Claus has a long-standing association with Lisburn. He has visited for many decades to ask the children if they have been doing their best all year, to receive their letters, and to hear what they would like for Christmas! Of course, he also makes an important stop on Christmas Eve to deliver presents!
In December 1957, the Ulster Star newspaper had a chat with Santa during his busy pre-Christmas schedule. He had set himself up in the toy department of the Belfast Co-operative Society’s store on Castle Street, Lisburn. Santa said that ‘the boys and girls of Lisburn and district are very well behaved’. Some of the children only asked for a couple of presents, but others provided a long list of things they wanted!
Children that were unable to visit Santa wrote him a letter, and he shared the following:
‘Dear Santa, I hope you will bring me a pram, also a story book and pen. I love you very much. When you come I will have a Christmas tree for you, and on it there will be a present for you.’
Santa noted that the most popular toys were dolls, prams, model trains, bicycles and teddy bears. Cowboy suits were in decline, and the demand for space-related toys was low, despite the launch of the Earth’s first satellite, Sputnik 1, by the USSR in October.
Although Santa was very busy, he had a lot of help from a close friend, John Blakely. John was 72 years old in 1957 and lived at Bridge Street, Lisburn. He used to work as a night watchman, but on retiring found himself striking a friendship with Father Christmas. Like Santa, John loved working with children and had seven grandchildren of his own. He accompanied Santa everywhere, except on Christmas Eve when he was able to relax at his home, knowing that he had helped to bring a lot of joy to the children of Lisburn.