Christmas in Derry - 1949 style

LET IT SNOW... These five young ladies enjoy playing in the snow in the Bogside in the early 1950s. To the left is the old Lecky Road RUC Station which closed in 1959 and in the background can be seen the spire of St. Columb's Cathedral and the backs of the houses at Nailor's Row. Anyone who can identify any of the girls in the photo should contact Sean McLaughlin at the Journal. [27-12-11 SML 100]

LET IT SNOW... These five young ladies enjoy playing in the snow in the Bogside in the early 1950s. To the left is the old Lecky Road RUC Station which closed in 1959 and in the background can be seen the spire of St. Columb's Cathedral and the backs of the houses at Nailor's Row. Anyone who can identify any of the girls in the photo should contact Sean McLaughlin at the Journal. [27-12-11 SML 100]

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The following report appeared in the December 29, 1949, edition of the ‘Derry Journal’. It gives a flavour of life in and around the city in the aftermath of World War II.

AFTER A last minute spate of shopping that brought the 1949 Christmas trading well up to the volume of the previous few years, Christmas Day in Derry City slipped past with the quietest tread for several years.

Some of the children who were patients in the North West Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital at Christmas in 1949. [Biggar & McDonald Collection)

Some of the children who were patients in the North West Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital at Christmas in 1949. [Biggar & McDonald Collection)

The holiday emphasis was on outdoor sport and big attendances were accorded the holiday football ties.

Postal officials had a Christmas period of increased activity and, in Derry, the Post Office handled and dispatched a total of one thousand more parcel bags than last Christmas.

55,000 more letters than the previous year were also delivered by a staff of postmen which included forty extra recruits.

There was, in the main, a better class and range of goods of all kinds on sale in the shops and the public showed more discernment than in any of the years since the war.

Grocers had a nasty headache trying to make a still-too-meagre supply meet a big demand.

Still, the variety of foodstuffs was wider, but turkeys and poultry were especially scarce.

Christmas Day in the city hospitals was made as bright and festive as possible.

The wards and corridors of the Derry City and County Hospital [at Infirmary Road] were gaily bedecked and for the benefit of the children their ward was presented with an illuminated Christmas tree loaded with gifts which were disbursed by Dr. JB Alexander in the role of Santa Claus.

There was no scarcity of turkey in the hospitals. Large helpings, along with plum pudding, were served to the patients who, although unable to spend the holidays with members of their families, received the next best thing when their friends visited them during the day.

In addition, they had a variety programme contributed to by local artistes.

In the other city hospitals, the programme was somewhat similar.

Patients in the Derry and North West Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital [at Northland Road] had, in addition to festive fare, gifts from a Christmas tree and a musical programme contributed to by members of staff.

Many parents and friends visited the hospital during the day.

Both on Wednesday and Christmas Day, Waterside Hospital patients were visited by groups of local entertainers who diffused a holiday spirit that was augmented by a special Christmas dinner, gaily decorated wards that were a riot of colour, and gifts presented by Miss Duggan as Santa Claus.

On Monday afternoon, members of St. Vincent de Paul Society visited the wards and distributed further gifts.

A concert programme followed, arranged by Mr. Samuel Burke.

In Derry Fever Hospital, the patients were enjoyably entertained by the Matron (Miss F. Donnell) and the nursing staff.

In St. Columb’s TB Hospital, Browning Drive, Waterside, there were prizes for the most gaily decorated wards which were judged by Mr. J. McCorkell, and, as well as an appropriate programme of carols, sung by the staff and friends, there was extra Christmas fare provided.

Several of the patients were permitted to spend the holiday in their homes.

Turkeys, plum pudding and a variety of other Christmas foodstuffs were included in the Christmas “table” for the patients in Derry Mental Hospital, Strand Road.

Afterwards, a dance was held in the decorated recreation hall.

Carols were also sung by Christ Church Choir, under Rev. EG Parke, MA, Rector, and Guides and Brownies donated gifts of sweets for the female patients, while ex-Service patients received gifts from the British Legion and other organisations.

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