Big-hearted Derry expat Christopher Mullan continued what has become a festive tradition last month.
He distributed £600 worth of presents to members of his adopted community of Wembley at Christmas.
Chris who has been living in London for a life-time now after leaving Derry in the 1980s - doubled up as Santa Claus, handing out the gifts to local community organisations and charities in December.
“I’ve been doing the Santa now for 12 years,” he explains. “From the start of January every year I start saving one pound coins. I then go around all the pound shops in the area and pick up the wee gifts. This year I managed to purchase £600 worth of gifts.”
The kindly Derryman has been involved in community work in his West London home for years.
He says he enjoys making a difference and contributing to his neighbourhood’s development and well-being.
This is especially true at Christmas and at other festive times of the year.
“It’s just wonderful to see people’s faces light up. People from all faiths.
“My neighbour Dixi and her family help me wrap up all the gifts,” he says.
Chris lives in one of the most ethnically diverse parts of London, and he says this particular Irish émigré is blessed with the best of neighbours, many of whom are from a South Asian background.
“My Hindu and Muslim neighbours we all know each other.
“Every year we light up our houses together at festivals to brighten up the street at Christmas and Diwali,” Chris adds.
He thinks it’s particularly important to continue to foster this sense of community now with uncertainty and rancour over Brexit continuing.
“It’s important to bring people together and for people get to know one another.
“In these times we live in it’s more important than ever,” he says.
And there’s no stopping Derry’s ‘secret Santa’ who has already started collecting for next year. That’s despite a period of ill health not so long ago.
“I had a stroke a few years ago so I am so happy to be able to continue my work in the community,” he declares.
But the annual Christmas gift distribution would not be possible without the help of so many people in his local area.
“I’d like to extend my special thanks to Tesco, Wilko and Poundstretcher in Wembley and everyone who helped with the appeal.
“Hopefully at Christmas in 2020 we can do even more.”