Christmas memorial tree at the Guildhall

Martin and Mary Gallagher, pictured at the launch of the Children in Crossfire "Memorial Christmas Tree" fundraiser in the Guildhall. Included is J. R. McLaughlin, Children in Crossfire and Mayor Brenda Stevenson.
Martin and Mary Gallagher, pictured at the launch of the Children in Crossfire "Memorial Christmas Tree" fundraiser in the Guildhall. Included is J. R. McLaughlin, Children in Crossfire and Mayor Brenda Stevenson.

A Derry couple who tragically lost their son to malaria have launched a touching initiative which will allow others to remember their loved ones this Christmas.

Christopher Gallagher, the 23-year-old son of Martin and Mary Gallagher, died in 2006 after contracting malaria while travelling in South East Asia. Since then, the couple have raised thousands of pounds in a bid to prevent the same happening to any young person.

For the past number of years, they have become well-known to many through their vigils outside the Guildhall, at which they dressed up as Santa and collected donations for Children in Crossfire. So far, they have raised close to £50,000 and have been told they have helped 20,000 children through their Malaria Fund.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’, Martin revealed that this year, the Christopher Gallagher Memorial Fund is launching ‘Santa’s Big Fundraiser Appeal 2014.’

In place of their vigil, the couple have set up a memorial tree, kindly donated by Mayor Brenda Stevenson, inside the entrance to the Guildhall itself. The tree is a poignant tribute to loved ones who have died and are especially remembered at Christmas. Family members and friends are invited to place their own, personal decoration on the tree to remember them. In return, they are asked to make a donation to the fund via the box provided. In addition, Christmas candy canes, also donated by the Mayor, can be purchased, with all proceeds again going to Children in Crossfire.

And, while Martin and Mary may not be undertaking their Guildhall vigil, they haven’t hung up their Santa suits, as they will bring even more seasonal cheer to the Christmas parties held in Pitchers. They encourage everyone to make a donation and would also be grateful for any donations of raffle prizes.